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The  last  word  on  a  live  subject  is  never  said.  As  an  immense 
volume  of  work  on  Luther  continues  to  pour  from  the  press,  I 
propose,  in  the  immediately  following  pages,  to  give  some  ac- 
count of  the  most  important  and  pertinent  literature  produced 
since  this  biography  first  went  to  press. 

The  most  striking  recent  contribution  to  the  subject,  both  on 
account  of  its  size  and  of  the  altercation  it  has  aroused,  is  the 
biography,  in  three  volumes  and  2500  lexicon-octavo  pages,  by 
Professor  Hartmann  Grisar,  S.J.  As  his  interest  centers  in  the 
character  of  the  Reformer  and  the  moral  effect  of  his  work,  the 
Catholic  scholar,  assuming  the  role  of  prosecuting  attorney, 
labors,  with  much  learning  and  a  real  intention  of  doing  justice, 
to  prove  that  both  were  bad.  Whereas  the  specialist  may  learn 
much  from  Grisar,  his  whole  point  of  view,  as  well  as  that  taken 
by  most  of  his  Protestant  critics,  is  foreign  to  the  impartial 

More  than  a  dozen  volumes,  many  of  them  bringing  fresh  light, 
have  been  added  to  the  Weimar  edition  of  Luther's  works.  Per- 
haps the  most  interesting  are  those  devoted  to  the  table-talk. 
Much  new  material,  not  inferior  in  value  to  that  already  known, 
has  been  discovered,  and  bears  out  the  opinion  of  Froude  that 
the  table-talk  is  "  one  of  the  most  brilliant  books  in  the  world 
...  as  full  of  matter  as  Shakespeare's  plays."  In  order  to 
make  these  newly  published  conversations  of  Luther  accessible 
to  the  English-speaking  public,  a  translation  of  them  is  now 
being  executed  and  may  be  expected  shortly  to  appear. 

Three  more  volumes  of  the  letters  in  the  Enders-Kawerau 
edition  have  come  out.  An  English  version  of  the  correspond- 
ence, containing  also  letters  by  Luther's  contemporaries  on  him 
and  his  movement,  is  now  in  course  of  publication.1 

1  Luther's  Correspondence  and  Other  Contemporary  Letters,  translated  and  edited 
by  Preserved  Smith,  vol.  i,  1507-1521,  Philadelphia,  1913.  The  second  and  third 
volumes,  completing  the  whole,  may  he  expected  hefore  the  centenary  of  1917. 


Of  Luther's  early  life  and  development  prior  to  1517  I  have 
now  arrived  at  a  somewhat  different  conception  from  that  set 
forth  in  the  present  biography.1  Sturdy  as  was  the  Saxon's 
constitution,  a  neurotic  vein  may  be  detected  in  his  violence  of 
language,  in  his  obsession  by  the  devil,  and,  one  is  tempted  to 
add,  in  that  conception  of  God  as  a  cruel  and  capricious  tyrant, 
which  he  himself  confessed  was  repugnant  to  natural  feeling.2 
By  the  application  of  Sigismund  Freud's  psycho  -  analytic 
method,  much  of  this  diathesis  may  be  explained  as  rooted  in 
Luther's  heredity  and  childish  experiences.  A  pathological  exag- 
geration is  also  exhibited  in  the  struggle,  during  the  first  ten 
years  in  the  friary,  with  what  he  himself  called  "  the  invincible 
concupiscence  "  of  the  flesh.  Regarding  not  only  overt  acts  of 
unchastity,  but  also  natural  desire  itself,  as  wicked,  and  finding 
that  by  no  means  could  he  rid  himself  of  this  desire,  he  came 
to  that  conclusion  as  to  the  total  impotence  and  bondage  of  the 
will,  which  lay  at  the  basis  of  his  most  famous  doctrine.  His 
insight  into  the  worthlessness  of  man's  own  efforts,  and  par- 
ticularly of  the  righteousness  of  works  prescribed  by  the  Church, 
was  sharpened  by  a  brisk  quarrel  with  the  "  observants,"  i.e., 
'  that  faction  of  his  own  order  which  laid  most  stress  on  the 
punctilio  of  the  cloister.  For  a  long  time,  however,  he  despaired 
of  finding  the  true  road  to  salvation,  and  believed  himself  rep- 
robate. The  answer  to  his  search,  suggested  by  the  German 
mystics,  came  to  him  about  1515  3  with  such  force  that  he  be- 

1  "  Luther's  Development  in  the  Light  of  Psycho-Analysis,"  American  Journal 
of  Psychology,  July,  1913.  "Luther's  Development  of  the  Doctrine  of  Justifica- 
tion by  Faith  only,"  Harvard  Theological  Review,  October,  1913.  The  first  article 
has  been  criticized  in  the  Hislorische  Zeitschrift  and  in  the  Archiv  fur  Reformations- 
geschichte,  but  the  legitimacy  of  the  psycho-analytic  method  is  now  recognized  in 
certain  theological  quarters.  Cf.  J.  H.  Schulz  in  Theologische  Liter aturzeitung, 
1914,  p.  36 :  "  Fur  die  Erforschung  einzelner  religionspsychologisch  oder  historisch 
bedeutsamer  Erscheinungen  oder  Personlichkeiten  kann  die  psychoanalytische 
Betrachtungsweise  anregend  wirken." 

2  Infra,  p.  208,  and  Tischreden,  Weimar,  i,  no.  1193  :  "  Erasmus'  thought  is  the 
greatest  and  subtlest  of  all  temptations,  the  belief,  namely,  that  God  is  unjust." 
He  called  it  "  Erasmus'  thought  "  because  Erasmus  had  said  that  if  God  were  such 
as  Luther  represented  him,  damning  men  for  acts  they  could  not  help,  he  would 
be  unjust. 

3  Not  in  1508,  as  stated  below,  p.  15.  The  best  recent  works  on  this  subject, 
besides  Grisar,  are  :  O.  Scheel:  Dokumente  zu  Luthers  Entwicklung,  1911 ;  K.  A. 


lieved  it  to  be  a  direct  revelation  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  Its  essence 
was  that  a  man  could  be  saved  only  by  perfect  self-surrender, 
by  pure  passivity  in  God's  hands,  by  an  entire  reliance  on  him  ; 
for  this,  more  than  mere  belief,  constituted  the  "  faith,"  justifi- 
cation by  which  has  always  been  counted  the  cardinal  doctrine 
of  Protestants. 

The  effect  of  this  discovery  in  his  own  life  was  almost  instan- 
taneous. Forthwith  he  commenced  purging  his  order  and  his  uni- 
versity, and  presently  protested  against  the  abuses  of  the  Church 
so  vigorously  as  to  bring  himself  into  collision  with  her  repre- 
sentatives, and  soon  to  cause  him  to  be  summoned  before  the 
Diet  at  Worms.  The  importance  of  this  crisis  in  European 
politics  has  been  put  in  strong  light  by  two  recent  books.1 
Schubert  has  shown  that  the  Pope  offered  Frederic  of  Saxony 
the  imperial  crown  in  exchange  for  the  surrender  of  Luther  — 
an  insufficient  bribe.  When  Charles  of  Spain  was  elected,  his 
agents  swore  to  a  capitulation,  drawn  up,  July  3,  1519,  with 
Luther  in  mind,  that  no  German  should  be  condemned  unheard ; 
and,  in  fact,  on  the  very  day  on  which  Charles  decided  to  hold 
his  first  Diet  he  agreed  to  allow  the  accused  heretic  to  appear 
before  it.  When  he  actually  did  come  to  the  bar  of  this  high  tri- 
bunal, his  condemnation  (as  is  set  forth  by  Kalkoff)  had  already 
been  drafted  by  Aleander  as  early  as  December,  1520,  and, 
under  the  name  of  the  "  Edict  of  Worms,"  was  forced  through 
the  Diet  by  intrigue  and  imperial  influence  against  the  wishes 
of  the  majority  of  its  members. 

Forced  by  the  ban  into  hiding  at  the  Wartburg,  Luther  began 
his  greatest  work,  the  translation  of  the  Bible.  It  has  recently 
been  asserted  that  this  was  but  a  revision  of  previous  German 
versions,2  but  the  reasons  given  for  this  opinion  are  not  convinc- 
ing. In  the  New  Testament,  at  least,  if  he  leaned  too  heavily 

Meissinger:  Luther s  Exegese  in  der  Fruhzeit,  1911 ;  A.  Humbert:  Les  Origines  de 
latUologie  moderne,  1911 ;  W.  Kohler:  "  Luther  bis  1521,"  in  Pflugk-Harttung's 
Im  Morgenrot  der  Reformation,  1912. 

1  H.  v.  Schubert :  Die  Vorgeschichte  der  Berufung  Luther s  aufden  Reichstag  zu 
Worms  (Sitzungsberichte  d.  heidelberger  Akademie,  1912,  vi) ;  P.  Kalkoff:  Die 
Entstehung  des  Wormser  Edikts,  1913. 

2  Vedder :  The  German  Reformation,  1914 ;  W.  W.  Florer  :  Luther's  Use  of  pre- 
Lutheran  Versions  of  the  Bible,  Anne  Arbor,  1913. 


on  the  authority  of  any  predecessor,  it  was  on  the  Latin  trans- 
lation pubished  by  Erasmus  in  the  second  edition  of  the  Greek 
text  (1519).  The  sole  evidence  of  the  use  of  earlier  versions  is 
found  in  the  slight  resemblances  between  them  and  Luther's 
Bible.  There  is  no  direct  testimony  that  the  Reformer  knew 
previous  translations,  and  this  is  the  more  remarkable  now  that 
the  minutes  of  the  proceedings  of  his  commission  for  revising 
his  first  edition  have  been  published.1  They  put  in  a  stronger 
light  than  ever  the  extreme  care  with  which  he  worked,  and 
also  the  ineradicable  subjectivity  of  his  attitude.  He  knew  no 
interpretation,  no  exegesis  whatever,  unconditioned  by  prac- 
tical interests,  the  chief  of  which  was  the  confutation  of  his 

On  one  point  there  is  no  difference  of  opinion,  the  remarkable 
and  immediate  success  of  the  work.  A  wide  examination 2  of 
contemporary  literature  has  shown  that  by  1526,  three  fourths 
of  the  quotations  from  the  New  Testament  in  German  were  from 
Luther's  version.  The  Catholics  paid  it  the  sincere  compliment 
of  plagiarism  —  for  the  rapidly  executed  version  of  Emser  was 
but  a  light  revision  of  his  opponent's  work.  Only  the  Zwing- 
lians  for  a  time  stood  aloof. 

Luther's  inconsistency  in  claiming  for  the  Bible  an  infallible 
authority,  and  at  the  same  time  in  criticizing  and  rejecting 
parts  of  it  himself,  has  been  noted  below  (p.  267/*.).  For  the 
former,  from  his  own  day  to  this,  Luther  has  been  praised  and 
followed  ;  for  the  latter  he  has  frequently  been  blamed.  And 
yet]  there  is  no  doubt  that  the  second  position  is  the  rational 
and  progressive  one ;  whereas  the  first  has  been  responsible  for 
much  with  which  Protestantism  may  justly  be  blamed.  Not  only 
in  rejecting  certain  texts  was  he  inconsistent,  but  in  relying 
solely  on  tradition  in  defending  usages,  such  as  the  observance 
of  Sunday  instead  of  Saturday,  and  infant  baptism,  for  which 
no  support  can  be  found  in  Scripture.  But  his  self-contradic- 
tions hurt  him  less  than  his  consistencies  ;  for  it  was  on  the  au- 

1  Deutsche  Bibel,  Weimar,  iii,   1911.  There  were  three  revisions,  1531,  1534, 
and  1539,  not  one,  as  stated  helow,  p.  264. 

2  H.  Zerener :  Studien  tiber  das  beginnende  Eindringen  der  lutherischen  Bibel- 
iibersetzung  in  die  deutsche  Literatur,  1911.  * 


thority  of  the  Bible  that  he  opposed  the  scientific  work  of  other 
men,  and  also  justified  two  or  three  immoral  principles.  Coper- 
nicus he  called  a  great  big  fool  for  thinking  he  knew  more  than 
the  inspired  writers  about  the  revolutions  of  the  heavenly  bodies. 
Erasmus  he  charged  with  atheism  for  applying  sound  critical 
principles  to  the  elucidation  of  the  Greek  Testament.  Polygamy 
and  even  concubinage1  he  tolerated  on  the  ground  that  they 
were  practiced  by  the  patriarchs  and  not  forbidden  by  the  apos- 
tles. Lying  in  a  pious  cause  he  claimed  was  sanctioned  by  the 
example  of  Christ.2  For  the  horrible  cruelties  of  persecution,  he, 
and  still  more  his  followers,  found  ample  warrant  in  the  wars 
of  the  Israelites. 

All  "this  should  serve  to  remind  us  that  it  is  a  momentous 
error  to  suppose  that  Luther  and  we  have  lived  in  the  same  era 
of  civilization.3  Here,  as  so  often,  our  thought  has  been  the 
slave  of  an  outworn  terminology.  Because  it  has  for  long  been 
the  fashion  to  divide  the  history  of  the  world  since  the  fall  of 
Rome  into  two  epochs, "  mediaeval "  and  "  modern,"  we  perforce 
assume  that  if  Luther  was  not  mediaeval  he  must  have  been 
almost  contemporary  with  us;  or,  on  the  other  hand,  if  it  is 
shown  that  he  differed  widely  from  twentieth-century  standards, 
that  he  must  have  lived,  intellectually,  in  the  dark  ages.  It  is 
truer  to  see  in  the  last  five  hundred  years  two  distinct  eras, 
differing  as  much  from  each  other  as  the  former  differed  from 
the  Middle  Ages  proper.  It  would  be  well  if  we  had  some  con- 
venient name,  such  as  the  "  Age  of  Transition,"  for  the  period 
of  Renaissance  and  Reformation,  covering  roughly  the  fifteenth, 
sixteenth,  and  seventeenth  centuries,  and  reserved  the  term 
"  modern  "  exclusively  for  the  last  two  hundred  years,  heralded 
by  the  "  enlightenment  "  of  the  "  philosophers  "  and  the  eman- 
cipation of  the  American  and  French  Revolutions.     Let  us 

1  On  polygamy  cf .  infra,  index.  On  concubinage,  Luther's  "  Sermon  on  Mar- 
riage," 1522,  Weimar,  x,  part  ii,  p.  290 :  "  Will  die  Frau  nicht  [die  eheliche  Pflicht 
zalilen]  so  komme  die  Magd." 

2  Infra,  p.  383,  n.  4. 

«8  On  Luther's  place  in  history  and  thought,  recent  works  are :  E.  Troeltsch : 
Protestantism  and  Progress,  1912 ;  H.  S.  Chamberlain  : '  Foundations  of  the  Nine- 
teenth Century,  1911  (in  parts)  ;  A.  V.  Muller :  Luther s  theologische  Quetten,  1912; 
A.  C.  McGiffert:  Protestant  Thought  before  Kant,  1911. 


examine  briefly  the  points  in  which  Luther  and  his  world  dif- 
fered, first,  from  modern  times,  and,  secondly,  from  the  Middle 

In  the  first  place  the  Reformation  did  not  claim  to  be  an 
appeal  to  reason,  or  in  any  sense  a  progressive  movement.  "We 
know,"  said  the  Reformer,  "that  Reason  is  the  Devil's  harlot, 
who  can  do  nothing  but  slander  and  harm  all  that  God  says  and 
does." 1  Protestant  and  Catholic  alike  have  been  consistently 
opposed  to  the  march  of  improvement,  be  it  scientific  or  social. 
Indeed,  the  direct  influence  of  the  Protestant  revolt  was  at  first 
disastrous  to  the  dawn  of  enlightenment.  We  cannot  quite  agree 
with  Nietzsche  that  "  the  Reformation  was  a  reaction  of  spirits 
behind  the  times,  against  the  Italian  Renaissance,"2  but  we 
must  recognize  that  the  two  movements  were  antagonistic  in  as 
many  points  as  those  in  which  they  were  united,  and  that  the 
spirit  of  the  Renaissance  passed  rather  into  the  Church  of  Rome 
than  into  those  of  Wittenberg  and  Geneva.3  If  modern  Pro- 
testantism has  shown  greater  hospitality  to  science  and  philoso- 
phy than  has  Catholicism,  the  reverse  was  true  of  the  earlier 
centuries.  In  short,  "  Luther's  most  regrettable  limitation  was 
that  he  neither  absorbed  the  cultural  elements  offered  by  his 
time,  nor  recognized  the  right  and  duty  of  free  research."  4 

Gibbon  observed  long  ago  that  if  a  "  philosopher  "  studied 
the  dogmas  of  the  Reformed  Churches,  he  would  be  astonished 
not  by  what  they  rejected,  but  by  the  amount  they  kept.  Even 
the  existence  of  a  personal,  ethical  God,  and  of  u  future  life, 
though  still  commonly  believed,  can  no  longer  be  postulated  as 
they  were  by  the  Reformers.  But  further  than  this,  they  took 
almost  entire  the  body  of  Catholic  dogma,  the  Trinity,  the 
miracles  and  resurrection  of  Christ,  the  atonement,  and  many 
other  mysteries.  The  one  trenchant  reform  made  by  Luther  in 
the  field  of  pure  dogma,  that  of  the  sacramental  system  of  the 
Church,  was  not  due  to  his  special  enlightenment,  but  "  because 

1  Weimar,  xviii,  164.    Cf.  Weimar,  xlvii,  474. 

2  Menchliches,  Allzumenchliches,  1878,  p.  200. 

3  E.  Troeltseh :  "  Renaissance  und  Reformation,"  Historische  Zeitschrift,  ex, 
519  ff,  1913. 

4  A.  Harnack  :  Dogmengeschichte  *,  iii,  1910,  p.  816. 


of  his  inner  experience  that  where  '  grace '  does  not  endow  the 
soul  with  God,  the  sacraments  are  an  illusion." * 

In  harmony  with  this  dogmatic  conservatism,  Luther  took  over 
almost  unchanged  the  prevalent  conception  of  society,  which  with 
him,  as  with  the  Middle  Ages,  remained  essentially  that  of  an 
authoritative  ecclesiastical  civilization.  His  famous  pamphlet 
on  The  Liberty  of  a  Christian  Man  sets  forth  an  idea  of  free- 
dom remote  from  our  own.  With  us  liberty  means  not  only  the 
relaxation  of  external  restraint  upon  the  conscience,  but  the 
right  to  range  untrammeled  through  all  fields  of  culture,  and 
the  joy  in  doing  so.  With  Luther  a  Christian  was  "  the  most 
free  lord  of  all  "  simply  because  no  amount  of  force  could  com- 
pel him  to  renounce  his  faith ;  his  liberty  was,  like  that  of  the 
Stoic,  mere  indifference  to  the  world. 

For  political  equality  and  for  social  reform  as  such  Luther 
never  cared  at  all.  When  in  1525  the  serfs  demanded  their 
enfranchisement,  the  Reformer  followed  St.  Paul  (1  Cor.  vn, 
20/.)  in  denying  them  this  right.  His  hatred  and  distrust  of 
the  common  people  were  such  that,  notwithstanding  his  opinion 
of  princes  as  usually  "  the  biggest  fools  and  worst  rascals  on 
earth,"  he  preferred  despotism  to  democracy.  "  The  princes  of 
the  world,"  he  once  said,  "  are  gods ;  the  common  people  are 
Satan."  2  Again  he  remarked  that  he  would  sooner  bear  with  a 
government  which  did  wrong  than  with  a  people  which  did  right.3 
In  fact  the  "divine  right  of  kings"  found  a  strong  support 
in  Lutheranism.  Popular  government  first  arose  in  England  and 
America  under  Calvinism,  and  in  France  under  Catholicism. 

The  Wittenberg  professor  never  doubted  the  right  and  duty 
of  the  State  to  persecute  for  heresy.  While  still  fighting  for 
the  opportunity  to  express  his  own  opinions,  indeed,  he  took  a 
liberal  view,  and  one  of  his  early  propositions  condemned  by 
the  bull  Exsurge  Domine,  was  that  it  was  contrary  to  the  will  of 
the  Holy  Spirit  to  put  heretics  to  death.  Again  in  1525  he  said: 
"  The  government  shall  not  interfere  ;  a  man  may  teach  and 
believe  what  he  likes,  be  it  gospel  or  lies."  4  But  a  very  few  years 

1  A.  Harnack :  What  is  Christianity  ?  p.  279. 

2  Tischreden,  Weimar,  i,  171. 

3  Werke,  Erlangen,  vol.  50,  p.  294.  *  Weimar,  xviii,  298/. 


of  success  convinced  him  and  Melanchthon  of  the  untenability 
of  this  attitude.  In  1529,  with  the  consent  of  the  Elector  John 
and  of  Melanchthon,  who  were  present,  an  imperial  edict  was 
passed  at  Spires  condemning  Anabaptists  to  death.  In  pursu- 
ance of  this  law,  a  regular  inquisition  was  established  in  Saxony, 
with  the  "  gentle  "  Melanchthon  at  its  head,  and  a  hideous  per- 
secution began.1  In  a  short  time  several  of  the  poor  noncon- 
formists were  put  to  death,  and  many  others  imprisoned  for  long 
terms.  Melanchthon  wrote  a  paper  to  justify  this  course ;  this 
he  did  by  asking,  "  Why  should  we  pity  such  men  more  than 
does  God  ?  "  who,  it  was  believed,  sent  them  to  eternal  torment 
for  their  opinions.  Luther  signed  this  document,2  with  a  post- 
script showing  that  he  was  a  little  sorry  for  the  poor  people  ; 
about  the  same  time,  in  a  commentary  on  the  Eighty-second 
Psalm,3  he  expressed  equally  intolerant  ideas.  According  to 
this  the  government  should  put  to  death:  1.  All  heretics  who  are 
seditious,  anarchical,  or  who  preach  against  private  property. 
2.  "  Those  who  teach  against  a  manifest  article  of  the  faith, 
clearly  grounded  in  Scripture,  and  believed  throughout  Chris- 
tendom, like  the  articles  children  learn  in  the  creed ;  as,  for  ex- 
ample, if  any  one  should  teach  that  Christ  was  not  God  but  a 
mere  man.  .  .  .  They  should  not  be  tolerated  but  punished  as 
public  blasphemers."  3.  If  there  are  two  sects  within  one  state, 
one  should  yield  to  the  other  to  avoid  conflict.  Luther  says  he 
would  advise  his  own  followers  to  yield  to  the  Catholics  in  such 
a  case,  but  conversely,  if  Catholics  in  a  Lutheran  state  refused 
to  be  convinced,  they  should  be  chastized.  The  Reformer  contin- 
ues that  a  Papist  cannot  be  sure  of  his  faith,  and  therefore  must 
be  punished  by  those  who  are  certain  he  errs,  just  as  a  murderer 
should  be  punished  even  if  he  believed  that  murder  was  right. 
Later  he  said  that  Jews  should  be  prohibited  from  the  exercise 
of  their  religion  on  pain  of  death. 

It  is  no  wonder  that  some  authorities  have  seen  in  the  Ref- 
ormation an  actually  retrograde  movement  in  this  regard,  and 
have  thought  that  the  fanaticism  it  aroused  really  sharpened 

1  P.  Wappler  :  Die  Stellung  Kursachsens  und  PMlipps  von  Hessen  zur  Tauferbe- 
wegung,  1910. 

2  Enders,  xiv,  129  (1531).  8  Weimar,  xxxi,  part  i,  208/. 


the  persecuting  spirit.1  It  seems  truer  to  say,  however,  that 
the  schism  created  rather  fresh  opportunity  than  an  increased 
desire  to  persecute.  When  nearly  every  one  conformed  there 
was  small  possibility  of  active  intolerance,  and  throughout  the 
Middle  Ages  the  Church  had  a  thousand  times  exhibited  her 
ruthless  cruelty.  What  made  the  Reformers  peculiarly  inexcus- 
able was  that  they  denied  to  others  the  very  right  for  which 
they  themselves  were  fighting. 

Turning  now  to  the  new  in  Luther,  we  must  first  of  all  be 
on  our  guard  against  measuring  him  too  exclusively  by  our 
contemporary  standards.  Nothing  is  more  unhistorical  than 
the  method,  now  quite  common,  of  searching  the  past  with  the 
sole  idea  of  unearthing  some  anticipation  of  modern  thought. 
Whether  sympathetic  to  us  or  not,  Luther  gave  to  the  prob- 
lems of  his  time  the  accepted  and  therefore  the  historically 
valid  answer.  Less  enlightened  than  Erasmus,  and  with  less 
of  the  truly  evangelic  spirit,  he  was,  because  more  suited  to  ' 
his  time  and  otherwise  more  effective,  historically  greater.  And 
his  services  to  mankind  were  solid  and  important. 
u***Jj£jLThe  greatest  of  these  was  undoubtedly  that  he  broke  the 
jTJ  strongest  tyranny  and  dissolved  the  worst  monopoly  that  the 
world  has  ever  known,  that  of  the  Roman  Church.  Whether 
the  various  companies  into  which  the  Standard  Religion  Trust 
resolved  itself  were  intrinsically  better  than  the  original  corpo- 
ration was  far  less  important  than  the  fact  that  these  smaller 
bodies  did  effectually,  and  even  in  a  cut-throat  spirit,  compete. 
The  pretensions  of  a  single  authority  to  infallibility  are  plausi- 
ble ;  but  two  or  more  churches,  each  claiming  to  be  the  sole 
purveyor  of  salvation,  and  mutually  giving  each  other  the  lie, 
must  by  their  very  existence  arouse  skepticism. 

Again  the  Reformation  was  really  a  progressive  movement, 
and  not,  as  it  claimed  to  be,  mainly  the  return  to  an  earlier 
standpoint.  Crying  "  Back !  "  the  Reformers  really  went  for- 
ward, simply  because  they  could  not,  with  all  their  efforts,  grasp 

1  On  the  subject  in  general :  Q.  L.  Burr :  "  Anent  the  Middle  Ages,"  American 
Historical  Review,  1913,  pp.  710-26;  N.  Paulus  :  Protestantismus  und  Toleranz, 
1911;  K.  Volker:  Toleranz  und  Intoleranz  im  Zeitalter  der  Reformation,  1912 ; 
F.  Ruffini:  Religious  Liberty,  1912 ;  R.  Lewin :  Luthers  Stellung  zu  den  Juden,  1911. 



the  primitive  ideas  of  the  Gospel.  Protestantism  is  remote  in 
spirit  from  the  early  Church,  because  the  sixteenth  century  is 
remote  in  time  from  the  first.  In  almost  all  points  Catholicism 
is  nearer  to  the  New  Testament  than  is  Protestantism.1    Even 
the  famous  "sola  fide"  is  less  Pauline  than  Luther  supposed, 
because  its  main  corollary,  the  antithesis  to  the  sacramental 
system,  would  not  have  occurred  to  the  Tarsian.  Another  ex- 
ample  is   the   progressive   history   of  the   eucharist.    Recent 
research  has  abundantly  shown  that  the  theophagy  of  the  New 
Testament  was  understood  by  the  early  Christians  in  a  far 
more  literal   sense  than  it  has  ever  been  since.    Transubstan- 
tiation  was  not,  as  generally  represented,  the  gross  invention  of  a 
superstitious  age,  interpreting  too  literally  the  words :  "  Take, 
eat ;  this  is  my  body  ";  rather  it  was  the  first  attempt  to  ration- 
alize that  language.    In  substituting  the  closely  related  theory 
of  consubsantiation,  Luther  took  another  step  in  the  same  direc- 
tion, not  because  he  intentionally  consulted  his  senses,  —  this  he 
passionately  deprecated,  —  but  because,  without  the  historical 
knowledge  and  imagination  to  put  himself  in  Paul's  place,  any 
movement  whatever  on  his  part  was  bound  to  be  conditioned  by 
the  atmosphere  of  contemporary  thought.  The  final  step  was 
taken  by  Zwingli,  in  which  the  original  mystery,  founded  in  a 
forgotten  and  almost  primeval  culture,  was  turned  into  a  simple 
commemorative  rite. 

So  in  other  things,  Luther  was,  contrary  to  his  own  intention, 
the  father  of  modern  undogmatic  Christianity,  and  through  that, 
to  a  degree,  of  modern  rationalism.  Emerson  quite  rightly 
stated  that  had  Luther  known  his  Theses  would  lead  to  Boston 
Unitarianism  he  would  rather  have  cut  off  his  hand  than  have 
posted  them.  But  once  the  avalanche  was  started,  he  was  im- 
potent to  stop  it.  Having  pushed  men  but  a  little  way  from  the 
unstable  equilibrium  of  ideal  Catholic  faith,  he  put  them  in  a 
condition  necessitating  further  motion.  Indeed,  not  only  was 
he  the  spiritual  ancestor  of  many  Christian  sects  which  he  would 
have  anathematized,  but  even,  to  a  certain  extent,  of  infidelity. 
There  is  a  measure  of  truth  in  Nietzsche's  assertion  that  the  great 

1  So  Kirsopp  Lake,  in  The  Harvard  Theological  Beview,  1914,  pp.  429,  431 ; 
G.  Santayana:  Reason  and  Religion,  1905,  114-24. 


Saxon  first  began  to  teach  the  Germans  to  be  un-Christian.  On 
the  other  hand,  it  must  be  recognized  that  Protestantism  has  in 
some  cases  acted  as  a  vaccination  against  free  thought ;  the  small 
dose  seasonably  administered  inoculates  against  a  more  for- 
midable infection,  later.  Thus  Catholic  France  and  Italy  have 
become  more  skeptical  than  Protestant  Germany,  England,  and 

As  in  Church  so  in  State,  Luther  was  a  secularist  in  spite  of 
himself.  In  freeing  society  from  the  heavy  burden  of  monas- 
ticism,  with  its  attendant  evils  of  unproductive  idleness  and 
sterility,  he  restored  to  the  World  energies  previously  devoted 
to  religion.  In  declaring  that  all  laymen  were  priests,  he  really 
reduced  all  priests,  with  their  divine  and  magical  powers,  to  the 
rank  of  laymen.  In  this  also,  this  unconscious  secularization  of 
the  ideal,  Wittenberg  stood  farther  from  Galilee  than  did  Rome. 
It  is  the  Founder  of  Christianity  who  bids  us  hate  father  and 
mother,  wife  and  child  for  his  sake;  who  points  the  way  to  celi- 
bacy by  his  example  and  his  approbation  of  men  "  who  have  made 
themselves  eunuchs  for  the  kingdom  of  heaven's  sake";  who 
finds  the  poor  blessed  and  the  rich  unable  to  enter  God's  king- 
dom ;  who  inculcates  humility  and  lives  rather  for  contempla- 
tion and  prayer  than  for  active  life  and  learning.  In  all  this 
it  is  St.  Francis  who  is  his  truest  disciple,  and  the  monastic  ideal 
which  is  like  that  of  Jesus,  unworldly,  disenchanted,  ascetic. 
Luther  and  his  followers,  on  the  contrary,  are  convinced  of 
the  importance  of  success  and  prosperity ;  they  abominate  the 
disreputable  ;  think  of  contemplation  as  idleness,  of  solitude 
as  selfishness,  and  of  poverty  as  a  punishment.  Married  and 
industrial  life  is  typically  godly.  Calvinism  furnished  the  moral 
sanction  for  capitalism  ;  the  Protestant  theologian  Richard  Bax- 
ter declared  that  in  neglecting  the  opportunity  to  make  money 
a  man  was  guilty  of  a  sin.  This  position  may  be  defended  on 
many  grounds,  as  common  sense  or  as  conducive  to  the  best 
interests  of  society ;  but  it  is  not  the  ethics  of  the  Gospel.  Just 
as  on  the  intellectual  side  Protestantism  approaches  a  pious 
skepticism,  so  on  the  ethical  side  it  has  been  reduced  to  the 
sanctimonious  authorization  for  an  extremely  materialistic  civi- 


After  all,  Luther's  strongest  appeal  to  us  is  his  own  person- 
ality. His  true  originality  is  his  character,  his  greatest  work 
his  life,  his  most  remarkable  achievement  himself. 

P.  S. 

Mobbisvtlle,  Vermont,  July  22,  1914. 


It  can  hardly  be  denied  that  the  men  who  have  most  changed 
history  have  been  the  great  religious  leaders.  "  Priest,  Teacher," 
says  Carlyle,  "  whatsoever  we  can  fancy  to  reside  in  man,  em- 
bodies itself  here,  to  command  over  us,  to  furnish  us  with  con- 
stant practical  teaching,  to  tell  us  for  the  day  and  hour  what  we 
are  to  do."  Among  the  great  prophets,  and,  with  the  possible 
exception  of  Calvin,  the  last  of  world-wide  importance,  Martin 
Luther  has  taken  his  place.  His  career  marks  the  beginning  of 
the  present  epoch,  for  it  is  safe  to  say  that  every  man  in  western 
Europe  and  in  America  is  leading  a  different  life  to-day  from 
what  he  would  have  led,  and  is  another  person  altogether  from 
what  he  would  have  been,  had  Martin  Luther  not  lived.  For  the 
most  important  fact  in  modern  history  is  undoubtedly  the  great 
schism  of  which  he  was  the  author,  the  consequences  of  which  are 
still  unfolding  and  will  continue  to  unfold  for  many  a  century  to 
come.  In  saying  this  we  do  not  attribute  to  him  the  sole  re- 
sponsibility for  the  revolt  from  Rome.  The  study  of  history,  as 
of  evolution  in  other  forms,  has  shown  that  there  are  no  abrupt 
changes,  —  appearances  to  the  contrary,  —  and  that  one  epoch 
follows  another  as  naturally  and  with  as  gradual  a  development 
as  one  season  follows  another  in  the  year.  In  a  sense  the  Pro- 
testant revolt,  and  the  larger  movement  of  which  it  was  but 
the  chief  symptom,  the  expansion  of  the  human  mind,  was  inevit- 
able. In  another  sense,  equally  true,  it  was  the  courage  and 
genius  of  a  great  man  which  made  it  possible.  If  some  such 
crisis  was  inevitable,  he  at  least  determined  its  time  and  to  a 
large  extent  its  direction.  Granting,  as  axiomatic,  that  essential 
factors  of  the  movement  are  to  be  found  in  the  social,  political,' 
and  cultural  conditions  of  the  age,  and  in  the  work  of  prede- 
cessors and  followers,  in  short,  in  the  environment  which  alone 
made  Luther's  lifework  possible,  there  must  still  remain  a  very 
large  element  due  directly  and  solely  to  his  personality. 



The  present  work  aims  to  explain  that  personality ;  to  show 
him  in  the  setting  of  his  age  ;  to  indicate  what  part  of  his  work 
is  to  be  attributed  to  his  inheritance  and  to  the  events  of  the 
time,  but  especially  to  reveal  that  part  of  the  man  which  seems, 
at  least,  to  be  explicable  by  neither  heredity  nor  environment, 
and  to  be  more  important  than  either,  the  character,  or  individ- 

A  new  biography  of  Luther,  however,  requires  more  apology 
than  is  to  be  found  merely  in  the  intrinsic  interest  of  the  sub- 
ject. A  glance  at  the  catalogue  of  almost  any  great  library  — 
that  of  the  British  Museum  for  instance  —  will  show  that  more 
has  been  written  about  Luther  than  about  any  man,  save  one, 
who  ever  lived.  Why  bring  another  coal  to  this  Newcastle  ? 

One  main  reason  is  to  be  found  in  the  extraordinarily  rapid 
advance  of  recent  research,  which,  within  the  last  ten,  and  still 
more,  of  course,  within  the  last  twenty  years,  has  greatly 
changed  our  knowledge  of  the  man.  For  example,  the  publica- 
tion, in  1908,  of  the  long  lost  Commentary  on  the  Epistle  to 
the  Romans  has  revolutionized  our  conception  of  the  Reformer's 
early  development ;  the  opening  of  the  Vatican  Archives  by  the 
late  Pope,  by  which  many  important  documents  were  first 
(1904)  brought  to  light,  has  at  last  revealed  the  true  history  of 
the  legal  process  taken  against  the  heretic  by  the  Curia ;  the 
researches  of  Dr.  Kroker  have  but  lately  (1906)  enabled  us  to 
speak  with  precision  of  the  early  life  of  Catharine  von  Bora; 
those  of  Dr.  Rockwell  (1904)  have  performed  a  similar  service 
for  an  important  incident  in  Luther's  life.  Again,  the  great 
edition  of  Luther's  Works  published  at  Weimar,  and  of  the 
letters  by  Dr.  Enders  and  Professor  Kawerau,  both  of  which 
are  still  in  progress,  have  now  made  possible  a  more  scientific 
study  of  his  most  important  works.  A  few  random  instances, 
however,  can  give  no  adequate  idea  of  the  number  of  details, 
not  to  mention  larger  matters,  which  have  first  been  revealed 
within  the  last  decade.  I  have  aimed  to  gather  up,  correlate, 
and  present  the  results  of  recent  research  now  scattered  through 
a  host  of  monographs.  This  has  seemed  to  me  the  most  pressing 
need  of  the  present,  and  I  have,  therefore,  only  to  a  limited 
extent  used  unpublished  material.    In  several  points,  however, 



my  own  studies  have  led  me  to  different  conclusions  from  those 
commonly  held,  and  I  venture  to  hope  that  this  feature  of  the 
book  will  not  be  without  value  to  specialists. 

In  another  respect  the  present  work  undertakes  to  present 
Luther  to  English  readers  from  a  standpoint  different  to  that 
from  which  he  is  usually  approached.  I  have  endeavored  to  re- 
veal him  as  a  great  character  rather  than  as  a  great  theologian. 
In  order  to  do  this  I  have  given  copious  extracts  from  his  table- 
talk  and  letters,  those  pregnant  documents  in  which  he  unlocks 
his  heart.  No  such  self -revelation  as  is  found  in  them  exists  else- 
where. Neither  Pepys,  nor  Cellini,  nor  Rousseau  has  told  us  as 
much  about  his  real  self  as  has  Luther  about  himself.  Every 
trait  of  character  is  revealed :  the  indomitable  will,  "  and  cour- 
age never  to  submit  or  yield,"  the  loyalty  to  conscience,  the 
warm  heart,  the  overflowing  humor,  the  wonderful  gift  of 
seeing  the  essence  of  things  and  of  expressing  what  he  saw,  and 
also  the  vehement  temper  and  occasional  coarseness  of  a  rugged 
peasant  nature.  In  the  tremulous  tone  of  the  first  epistles  is 
reflected  the  anguish  of  a  soul  tortured  by  doubt  and  despair ; 
later  the  writer  tells  with  graphic  force  of  the  momentous 
debate  at  Leipsic ;  again,  in  the  same  hour  in  which  he  stood 
before  the  Emperor  and  Diet  at  Worms,  asked  to  recant  and 
expecting  death  if  he  did  not,  he  writes  a  friend  that  he  will 
never  take  back  one  jot  or  tittle.  The  letters  from  the  Wart- 
burg  and  Feste  Coburg  breathe  the  author's  fresh,  almost  idyl- 
lic communion  with  nature ;  in  the  table-talk  it  is  now  the  warm 
family  affection  which  charms,  now  the  irrepressible,  rollicking 
joviality  which  bursts  forth.  The  man's  faults,  too,  stand  in  his 
unconscious  autobiography,  neither  dissembled  nor  attenuated. 
Two  blunders,  his  incitement  to  bloody  reprisals  against  the  re- 
bellious peasants  and  his  acquiescence  in  the  bigamy  of  Philip 
of  Hesse,  blunders  which  his  enemies  called  crimes,  are  frankly 
told  in  all  the  hideousness  of  their  conception  and  consequences. 
It  is,  moreover,  plain  to  the  reader  of  the  letters  and  table-talk 
that  Luther  was  often  in  language  and  sometimes  in  thought  the 
child  of  a  coarse  age.  But  of  him  it  is  especially  true  that  to 
understand  all  is  to  pardon  all.  Through  all  his  mistakes,  and 
worse,  he  emerges  a  good  and  conscientious  as  well  as  a  very 


great  man :  a  son  of  thunder  calling  down  fire  from  heaven  ;  a 
Titan  hurling  Pelion  upon  Ossa  against  the  hostile  gods. 

It  is  a  pleasure  to  acknowledge  the  help  I  have  received  from 
many  quarters.  Professor  Adolph  Harnack  has  personally  as- 
sisted my  researches  in  the  Berlin  Royal  Library.  To  Dr.  Cowley 
and  Professor  Reginald  Lane  Poole  I  am  indebted  for  special 
facilities  in  the  use  of  the  Bodleian  Library  at  Oxford.  Dr. 
Ernest  Kroker,  of  Leipsic,  has  given  me  several  valuable  sug- 
gestions. Principal  J.  Estlin  Carpenter,  of  Manchester  College, 
Oxford,  has  kindly  placed  at  my  disposal  the  excellent  collection 
of  Lutherana  made  by  the  late  Dr.  Beard,  whose  History  of  the 
Reformation  to  the  Diet  of  Worms,  unfortunately  left  unfinished 
at  his  death  (1888), is  a  well-known  contribution  to  the  subject. 
My  friend  Dr.  David  Saville  Muzzy,  of  New  York,  has  kindly 
revised  the  chapter  on  the  Peasants'  Revolt ;  Professor  R.  L. 
Poole,  and  Mr.  Percy  S.  Allen,  Fellow  of  Merton  College,  Ox- 
ford, have  done  the  same  for  the  chapter  on  Luther  and 
Henry  VIII  as  it  originally  appeared  in  the  English  Historical 
Review.  My  friend,  Professor  Herbert  P.  Gallinger,  of  Amherst, 
has  read  the  proofs.  I  feel  under  especial  obligations  to  Professor 
Gustav  Kawerau,  of  Berlin,  who,  during  my  long  stay  afe  the 
Prussian  capital,  with  the  greatest  possible  kindness  placed  at 
my  disposal  his  rare  books  and  manuscripts  and  his  more  valu- 
able time.  To  all  these  gentlemen  I  tender  my  warmest  thanks. 
Last,  but  not  least  in  love,  I  must  acknowledge  the  help  received 
in  my  own  family.  My  father,  the  Rev.  Dr.  Henry  Preserved 
Smith,  has  read  the  whole  manuscript,  and  thus  given  me  the 
benefit  of  his  lifelong  studies  in  divinity  and  experience  as  a 
writer.  My  sister,  Miss  Winifred  Smith,  and  my  wife  have  also 
aided  me  with  criticism  and  suggestion. 

P.  S. 

Paris,  May  16,  1910. 



London  :  British  Museum,  and  Dr.  Williams's  Library. 
Oxford  :  Bodleian  Library. 


Berlin  :  Konigliche  Bibliothek,  Universitatsbibliothek,  and  private 

library  of  Professor  Gustav  Kawerau. 
Leipsic  :  Universitatsbibliothek  and  Stadtbibliothek. 
Marburg  :  State  Archives  and  Universitatsbibliothek. 


Paris:  Bibliotheque  Nationale,  Bibliotheque  de  Sainte-Genevieve, 
Bibliotheque  Mazarine,  Bibliotheque  de  la  Sorbonne,  Bibliotheque 
de  la  Faculty  Protestante. 

Boston  :  Public  Library. 
Cambridge  :  Harvard  University  Library. 
New  York  :  Columbia  University,  Union  Seminary,  Astor  and  Lenox 

Washington  :  Congressional  Library. 



/*     I.   Childhood  and  Student  Life.     1483-1505 1 

I  II.  The  Monk.    1505-1512 8 

III.  The  Journey  to  Rome.    October,  1510-February,  1511  16 

IV.  The  Professor.    1512-1517 20 

*  </V.  The  Indulgence  Controversy.    1517-1519 36 

VI.  The  Leipsic  Debate.    1519 58 

VII.  The  Patriot.    1519-1520 69 

VIII.  The  Address  to  the  German  Nobility,  The  Babylon- 
ian Captivity  of  the  Church,  and  The  Freedom 

of  a  Christian  Man.     1520 76 

4   IX.   The  Burning  of  the  Canon  Law  and  of  the  Pope's 

Bull.     1520 95 

\  X.  The  Diet  of  Worms.    1521 103 

XI.  The  Wartburg.    May  4,  1521-March  1,  1522  ....  121 
XII.  The  Wittenberg  Revolution  and  the  Return  from 

•rtiE  Wartburg.    1521-1522 135 

XIII.  Carlstadt  and  Munzer.     1522-1525 147 

*XIV.  The  Peasants'  Revolt.    1525 157 

^    XV.  Catharine  von  Bora 168 

XVI.  Private  Life.    1522-1531 182 

^XVII.  Henry  VIII 192 

&VIII.  Erasmus 199 

XIX.  German  Politics.    1522-1529 214 

XX.  Church  Building 229 

XXI.  Ulrich  Zwtngli     ...  238 

.   XXII.  Feste  Coburg  and  the  Diet  of  Augsburg.    1530     .    .  247 


XXIII.  The  German  Bible 263 

XXIV.  The  Religious  Peace  of  Nuremberg.    1532      .    .    .271 
XXV.  The  Church  Militant 279 

XXVI.  The  Wittenberg  Agreement.     1536 288 

XXVII.  Relations   with   France,   England,   Mayence    and 

Albertine  Saxony 296 

XXVIII.  The  League  of  Schmalkalden.     1535-1539   .    .    .    .303 

XXIX.   Character  and  Habits 316 

XXX.  At  Work 331 

XXXI.  Religion  and  Culture 336 

XXXII.  The  Luther  Family 351 

XXXIII.  Domestic  Economy 363 

XXXIV.  The  Bigamy  of  Philip  of  Hesse.    1540 373 

XXXV.  Catholic  and  Protestant.    1539-1546 387 

XXXVI.  Lutheran  and  Sacramentarian.    1539-1546     .    .    .  402 
XXXVII.  Death 409 

EPILOGUE.    The  Last  Years  and  Death  of  Luther's  Wife  .  424 


I.  Chronological  Tables 429 

II.  Bibliography,  with  References 433 

III.  Documents 471 

INDEX 477 





The  hills  and  forests  of  Thuringia,  in  the  very  heart  of 
Germany,  unite  great  natural  loveliness  with  the  romantic 
attractions  of  ancient  historical  association.  If  the  traveller 
stopping  at  Eisenach,  the  tiny  metropolis  of  this  favored  region, 
will  walk  south  for  about  fifteen  miles  through  the  fairy  forest, 
he  may  visit  the  hamlet  of  Mohra,  famous  as  the  home  of  the 
Luther  family,  still  flourishing  here  in  several  branches.  Here 
lived  Martin  Luther's  great-grandfather  and  grandfather  as 
peasants  —  for  it  is  with  them  that  the  family  pedigree  begins. 
Attempts  to  connect  the  name  with  that  of  the  Emperor  Lo- 
thaire,  as  well  as  with  other  noble  though  less  remote  person- 
ages, have  failed. 

In  the  old  days  when  Columbus  was  meditating  his  moment- 
ous voyage,  and  Richard  III  was  about  to  murder  his  nephews 
in  the  Tower,  Hans  Luther  married  Margaret  Ziegler  of  Eise- 
nach. Following  the  ancient  peasant  custom,  by  which  the 
older  sons  were  sent  out  into  the  world  to  make  their  way, 
while  the  youngest  inherited  the  farm,  Hans  was  forced  to  take 
his  wife  away  from  home.  He  was  attracted  to  the  county  of 
Mansfeld,  about  sixty  miles  northeast  of  Eisenach,  then  as 
now  a  mining  district. 

The  first  stop  of  the  young  couple  was  at  Eisleben,  and  here, 
on  November  10,  1483,  their  oldest  son  was  born,  and  the  next 
day  baptized  by  the  parish  priest,  Bartholomew  Rennebrecher, 
with  the  name  Martin,  after  the  saint  whose  day  it  was.  The 
little  room  under  the  tower  of  the  church  of  St.  Peter  and  St. 
Paul  where  the  baptism  took  place  is  shown,  with  part  of  the 


antique  foal:,  exactly  as  it  was  then;  the  house  exhibited  as 
the  birthplace  is  not,  on  the  other  hand,  well  authenticated. 

While  Martin  was  still  a  wee  baby,  the  Luthers  moved  to 
the  town  of  Mansfeld  near  by,  where  they  were  to  spend  the 
rest  of  their  days.  It  is  a  pretty  little  village  in  the  midst  of 
its  hills,  on  one  of  which  stands  the  red  sandstone  castle  of  the 
Counts  of  Mansfeld. 

The  boy's  life  here  was  one  of  grinding,  squalid  poverty. 
The  comely  little  cottage  going  by  the  name  of  the  Luther 
house  was  bought  or  built  by  his  father  long  after  Martin  had 
left  home. 

Hans  Luther  was  a  sturdy,  frugal,  hardworking  man ;  that 
admirable  type  of  character,  who,  having  small  natural  gifts 
and  no  advantages,  by  sheer  industry  and  will-power  makes  his 
way  in  the  world.  Starting  as  a  stranger  and  a  common  miner, 
he  gradually  won  a  small  competence  and  a  place  of  honor 
among  his  fellow  citizens,  who  eventually  elected  him  to  the 
highest  office  in  the  town.  A  man  of  natural  shrewdness,  his 
pointed  and  pithy  sayings  more  than  once  made  a  lasting  im- 
pression upon  his  son.  He  was  ambitious  to  give  this  promising 
child  the  education  he  himself  had  lacked,  and  but  for  the 
wisdom  and  self-sacrifice  with  which  he  pursued  this  aim,  Mar- 
tin's career  would  have  been  impossible. 

The  mother,  Margaret,  was  a  quiet  woman,  bowed  a  little  by 
poverty  and  toil.  The  son  remembered  seeing  her  carry  on  her 
back  wood  gathered  from  the  forest.  Both  parents  were  strict, 
and  even  harsh.  "  My  father,"  Luther  said  many  years  later, 
"  once  whipped  me  so  severely  that  I  fled  from  him,  and  it  was 
hard  for  him  to  win  me  back.  .  .  „  My  mother  once  beat  me 
until  the  blood  flowed,  for  having  stolen  a  miserable  nut.  It 
was  this  strict  discipline  which  finally  forced  me  into  the  mon- 
astery, although  they  meant  heartily  well  by  it." 

Martin  had  at  least  one  brother  and  three  sisters.  He  rarely 
saw  them  and  never  wrote  to  them  after  he  left  home,  at  the  age 
of  thirteen.  Late  in  life  his  relations  with  them  were  disturbed 
by  a  quarrel  about  the  division  of  his  father's  estate;  but  this 
was  smoothed  over,  and  the  Reformer  did  his  duty  by  the  family 
nobly  in  caring  for  several  of  his  orphan  nephews  and  nieces. 


The  natural  question,  What  were  the  first  religious  influences 
experienced  by  Martin  Luther?  can  be  briefly  answered.  He 
was  taught  a  few  simple  prayers  and  hymns  at  his  mother's 
knee.  God  the  Father  and  Jesus  were  represented  to  him  as 
stern,  nay,  cruel  judges,  to  appease  whose  just  wrath  the  inter- 
cession of  the  saints  must  be  secured.  No  doubt  was  entertained 
by  the  humble  peasants  of  the  effectiveness  of  the  ministrations 
of  the  Church ;  the  ecclesiastical  hierarchy,  and  especially  the 
Pope,  were  regarded  with  reverent  awe. 

One  prominent  element  of  the  popular  religion  of  the  time 
was  superstition.  The  gloomy  old  Northern  mythology,  full  of 
witches  and  kobolds,  good  spirits  and  evil  spirits,  survived  from 
heathen  times.  It  is  hard  to  imagine  now  how  gross  and  vivid 
was  the  belief  in  the  supernatural  in  Hans  Luther's  house. 
Martin  never  freed  himself  from  it,  and  many  are  his  reminis- 
cences of  the  witches  who  plagued  his  mother.  Even  his  bare- 
legged rambles  through  the  hills  were  haunted  by  the  dread  of 
surrounding  demons.  "  In  my  native  country,"  he  once  said, 
"  there  is  a  high  hill  called  the  Pubelsberg,  on  top  of  which  is 
a  lake ;  if  one  throws  a  stone  into  the  water  a  great  tempest 
will  arise  over  the  whole  region,  for  it  is  the  habitation  of 
captive  devils.  Prussia  is  full  of  them,  and  Lapland  full  of 

The  boy's  education  began  very  early  in  the  village  school, 
which  may  still  be  seen  by  the  traveller.  Latin  was  the  prin- 
cipal subject  taught ;  the  boys  were  required  to  speak  as  well  as 
read  it.  Martin's  recollections  of  the  ignorance  and  brutality 
of  his  first  teachers  were  very  unhappy  indeed.  He  was  flogged 
repeatedly  on  the  same  morning  for  faltering  in  a  declension. 
"  Ah !  "  he  exclaims,  "  what  a  time  we  had  with  the  lupus  l  and 
Donatus ! 2  My  teachers  made  us  parse  everything,  and  made 
obscene  jokes.   The  examination  was  like  a  trial  for  murder." 

When  Luther  was  only  thirteen  years  old,  he  was  sent  to  the 
school  of  a  religious  brotherhood  —  the  u  Nullbriider  "  —  at 

1  The  lupus,  or  wolf,  was  the  monitor  who  punished  the  pupils  for  speaking- 

2  The  Latin  grammar  then  and  long  after  in  use ;  Luther  once  said  it  was  the 
.  best. 


Magdeburg.  Here  he  began  to  contribute  to  his  own  support  by- 
begging,  in  those  days  one  of  the  recognized  means  by  which  a 
poor  lad  might  get  an  education.  No  more  stigma  attached  to  it 
than  attaches  to  the  acceptance  of  a  scholarship  by  a  student 
nowadays.  One  of  the  few  things  known  of  this  year  is  that  the 
miserable  life  brought  on  a  fever,  which  might  have  proved  fatal 
had  not  the  patient  drunk  some  water  in  disobedience  to  the 
doctor's  orders. 

It  may  have  been  at  Magdeburg  that  Martin's  thoughts  first 
turned  in  the  direction  of  the  monastic  life.  Erasmus,  who 
attended  one  of  the  schools  of  the  same  order,  relates  graphic- 
ally how  hard  the  brothers  tried  to  guide  their  pupils  into  the 
cloister.1  One  incident,  at  any  rate,  made  so  deep  an  impression 
on  Luther's  mind,  that  thirty-five  years  later  he  wrote  of  it 

When,  in  my  fourteenth  year,  I  went  to  school  at  Magdeburg,  I  saw 
with  my  own  eyes  a  prince  of  Anhalt  .  .  .  who  went  in  a  friar's  cowl 
on  the  highways  to  beg  bread,  and  carried  a  sack  like  a  donkey,  so 
heavy  that  he  bent  under  it,  but  his  companion  walked  by  him  without 
a  burden ;  this  prince  alone  might  serve  as  an  example  of  the  grisly, 
shorn  holiness  of  the  world.  They  had  so  stunned  him  that  he  did  all 
the  works  of  the  cloister  like  any  other  brother,  and  he  had  so  fasted, 
watched,  and  mortified  his  flesh  that  he  looked  like  a  death's  head, 
mere  skin  and  bones  ;  indeed  he  soon  after  died,  for  he  could  not  long 
bear  such  a  severe  life.  In  short,  whoever  looked  at  him  had  to  gasp 
for  pity  and  must  needs  be  ashamed  of  his  own  worldly  position. 

After  one  year  at  Magdeburg,  Martin  was  transferred  to  Eis- 
enach to  attend  the  school  of  St.  George  the  dragon-killer.  His 
mother  had,  in  this  her  native  town,  a  relative  named  Conrad 
Hutter  3  on  whose  help  she  counted  for  her  son.  Hutter  was  sex- 
ton of  St.  Nicholas'  Church,  and  it  may  have  been  through  him 
that  Luther  learned  to  know  and  love  the  parish  priest,  John 
Braun.  It  was  not  with  his  kinsman  that  he  lodged,  however, 
but  with  a  certain  family  identified  by  most  biographers  with 
the  Cottas.    Luther  sometimes  speaks  in  later  years  of  "his 

1  Erasmi  opera,  ed.  Clericus,  Leyden,  1701,  vol.  iii,  col.  1822. 

2  Defence  before  Duke  George,  1533,  Erlangen  edition,  xxxi,  239  ff. 
8  O.  Clemen :  Beitrage  zur  Beformationsgeschichte,  ii,  1. 


hostess  of  Eisenach,"  but  never  by  name,  assuming  her  to  have 
been  well  known  to  his  audience.  She  took  him  in,  according  to 
tradition,  "  for  his  hearty  singing,"  and  under  her  charitable  and 
pious  roof  the  boy  for  the  first  time  tasted  modest  comfort. 
Frau  Cotta  was  by  birth  a  Schalbe ;  this  wealthy  family  had 
founded  a  little  Franciscan  monastery  at  the  foot  of  the  Wart- 
burg,1  with  whose  inmates  young  Luther,  serious  and  pious 
beyond  his  years,  became  friendly.  So  priestly  indeed  was  his 
circle  of  friends  that  he  heard  with  astonishment  from  his  host- 
ess a  little  verse  to  the  effect  that  nothing  was  dearer  on  earth 
than  the  love  of  woman  to  him  who  could  win  it. 

The  promise  of  the  industrious,  bright  boy  induced  his  father, 
whose  circumstances,  though  not  easy,  were  improving,  to  con- 
tinue his  liberal  education.  Accordingly  at  the  beginning  of  the 
summer  semester  (about  May,  1501)  "Martinus  Ludher  ex 
Mansfeld"  matriculated  at  the  old  and  famous  University  of 
Erfurt.  It  was  the  custom  of  students  who  did  not  board  with 
one  of  the  professors  to  live  at  a  "Burse,"  a  combination  of 
dormitory  and  eating-club.  Luther  lived  at  the  "  Burse  "  of  St. 
George,  which  once  stood  on  Lehmann's  bridge,  but  is  now  no 
longer  in  existence. 

The  course  of  studies  began  with  logic,  dialectic,  grammar, 
and  rhetoric,  followed  by  arithmetic,  various  natural  sciences, 
ethics,  and  metaphysics.  All  the  studies  were  sicklied  o'er 
with  a  pale  cast  of  scholasticism.  Mediaeval  thought  had  pro- 
gressed little,  if  at  all,  beyond  Aristotle,  who  was  regarded  as 
an  inerrant  authority,  but  it  had  elaborated  his  rules  of  argu- 
mentation into  fantastic  extremes,  at  once  dry  and  ridiculous. 
The  two  most  celebrated  professors  at  Erfurt  in  the  early  six- 
teenth century,  Trutvetter  and  Usingen,  were  entirely  under  the 
sway  of  the  Stagirite,  and  one  may  well  believe  Melanchthon's 
testimony  "  that  a  particularly  thorny  kind  of  dialectic  "  pre- 
vailed there.  The  natural  sciences  were  studied  absolutely 
without  experiment  or  original  research,  in  perfect  reliance  on 
Aristotle's  ancient  works.    The  philosophy,  too,  was  founded 

1  Not  now  preserved ;  probably  it  was  on  or  near  the  Barf  iisser  Strasse.  The 
house  shown  as  the  Luther  house, ».  c,  Frau  Cotta's,  is  of  very  doubtful  authen- 


on  his  essays,  though  in  this  case  some  changes  in  his  system 
had  been  made  by  the  great  thinkers  of  the  Middle  Ages  in 
their  endeavors  to  harmonize  it  with  Christianity.  The  great 
question  which  agitated  mediaeval  thought  was  whether  the  in- 
dividual or  the  class  was  the  reality  ;  e.  g.,  in  the  word  "  horse," 
is  the  essential  thing  each  particular  horse,  or  the  abstract  of 
all  the  qualities  which  make  up  the  conception?  The  realists, 
who  decided  in  favor  of  the  latter,  nourished  in  the  heyday  of 
scholasticism,  but  the  nominalists,  who  maintained  the  former, 
had  now  supplanted  them,  and  Erfurt  philosophy  was  therefore 
of  this  school. 

The  universities  in  the  sixteenth  century  were  undergoing 
a  change  somewhat  similar  to  that  which  they  are  experiencing 
in  the  twentieth.  The  old  mediaeval  course,  which  has  just  been 
sketched,  no  longer  prevailed  without  opposition.  Some  rays  of 
the  "  new  learning,"  the  glorious  rebirth  of  classical  antiquity, 
had  penetrated  Erfurt.  Indeed  there  were  several  courses  in  the 
classics,  and  a  circle  of  students  devoted  to  the  humanities. 
The  inclinations  of  the  miner's  son,  however,  did  not  lead  him 
that  way.  His  serious,  religious  mind  preferred  the  rough  road 
of  scholasticism  to  the  primrose  path  of  poetry  and  oratory.  He 
later  regretted  that  he  had  read  no  more  history  and  poems,  and 
added  that  the  study  ,of  scholastic  philosophy  prevented  his 
reading  any  verse  except  Baptista  Mantuan,1  Ovid's  Heroides, 
and  Virgil. 

Of  the  student's  life  little  is  known.  That  it  was  pure  and 
godly  may  be  inferred  from  the  fact  that  his  enemies  never 
found  any  reproach  in  it  and  because  of  the  absence  of  self- 
accusation.  He  sometimes  suffered  from  ill-health  and  depres- 
sion. One  day  he  found  a  Bible  in  the  library,  and  began  to 
read  the  passage  about  Hannah  and  Samuel,  but  a  lecture 
called  him  away,  and  he  apparently  did  not  pursue  his  reading 
farther  at  this  time.2 

After  taking,  with  high  rank,  the  degrees  of  bachelor  of  arts 

1  This  late  poet  (1448-1516),  Shakespeare's  "  good  old  Mantuan,"  was  a  great 
favorite  of  the  Renaissance. 

2  Kroker:  Rorers  Tischreden,  in  Archiv.  f.  Reformationsgeschichte,  no.  20 
(1908),  p.  345. 


in  1502  and  of  master  in  1505,  Luther  just  began  the  study  of 
jurisprudence.  This  was  in  accordance  with  the  wishes  of  his 
ambitious  father,  who  bought  him  an  expensive  Corpus  Juris. 
He  had  worked  in  law  only  two  months,  however,  when  he 
abruptly  decided  to  enter  the  monastery. 


THE  MONK.    1505-1512 

Various  reasons  have  been  assigned  for  the  sudden  decision 
of  Luther  to  become  a  monk.  The  real  cause  lay  in  a  torturing 
sense  of  sin  and  a  longing  for  reconciliation  with  God,  experi- 
enced by  many  deeply  spiritual  Christians  at  one  time  or  an- 
other in  their  lives.  The  cloister  had  been  the  refuge  of  such 
persons  for  a  thousand  years ;  to  it  the  Saxon  student  naturally 
turned  to  find  rest  for  his  soul.  After  all,  the  seemingly  abrupt 
vow  is  only  the  natural  culmination  of  previous  experiences. 
The  strict  discipline  of  a  stern  and  pious  home,  the  terrible 
vision  of  the  begging  prince,  the  priestly  circle  of  friends  at 
Eisenach,  had  all  pointed  the  boy  to  the  career  then  regarded 
as  the  perfection  of  Christianity. 

The  influences  in  the  same  direction  at  Erfurt  were  also 
very  strong.  This  flourishing  but  by  no  means  large  town 
boasted  twenty  cloisters,  twenty-three  churches,  thirty-six 
chapels,  and  in  all  more  than  one  hundred  buildings  devoted  to 
religious  uses.  Among  the  numerous  orders  represented  by 
chapters  at  "  little  Kome,"  as  the  devout  city  was  called,  the 
strongest  were  those  of  the  begging  friars,  the  Franciscans, 
Dominicans,  and  Augustinians. 

This  last  order  could  not  claim,  like  the  others,  a  great  saint 
as  founder,  for  Augustine  had  not  written  their  rule.  Since 
their  first  incorporation  by  Innocent  IV  in  1243,  confirmed  by 
Alexander  IV  in  1256,  the  Augustinian  Hermits,  as  they  were 
officially  called,  flourished  mightily.  By  the  middle  of  the 
fifteenth  century,  there  were  two  thousand  chapters,  and  the 
order,  like  most  of  the  older  ones,  had  begun  to  show  some 
signs  of  degeneracy.  A  reform  had  been  carried  through  many 
of  the  chapters  by  Proles,  for  the  last  quarter  of  the  fifteenth 
century  Vicar  of  the  German  province.  Erfurt  had  joined 
"  the  congregation  of  the  observants,"  as  the  reform  movement 


was  called,  in  1475.  What  made  Luther  choose  this  monastery 
cannot  be  certainly  told ;  perhaps  some  personal  ties  and  the 
good  fame  of  the  Hermits  attracted  him. 

The  spring  and  early  summer  of  1505  was  a  terrible  time  at 
Erfurt.  The  plague  broke  out,  some  of  the  students  died  of  it, 
and  most  of  the  others  left  town  in  a  panic.  It  is  at  such  times 
that  men's  thoughts  turn  to  the  other  world,  and  Luther,  who  had 
already  been  asking  himself  the  question,  "  When  will  you  be 
righteous  and  do  enough  to  win  a  gracious  God?"  seriously 
considered  abandoning  a  worldly  for  a  spiritual  calling.  The 
faculty  of  law  began  lecturing  on  May  19,  but  the  young 
student  had  hardly  attended  their  courses  for  a  month  before 
he  became  thoroughly  disgusted  with  a  profession  which,  to  his 
mind,  had  no  relish  of  salvation  in  it.  Towards  the  last  of 
June  he  returned  to  his  father's  house,  perhaps  to  get  permis- 
sion to  drop  his  juristic  studies. 

As  he  was  coming  back  to  the  university,  on  July  2,  he  was 
overtaken  at  Stotterheim,  near  Erfurt,  by  a  terrible  thunder- 
storm, and,  in  a  fright,  vowed  to  St.  Anna  to  be  a  monk.  If  it 
may  seem  strange  that  a  young  man  of  twenty-two  should  be 
panic-stricken  by  a  clap  of  thunder,  it  must  be  remembered 
that  the  miner's  son  regarded  such  phenomena  as  frequently 
occasioned  by  the  direct  interposition  of  the  devil.  Moreover, 
it  has  been  shown  that  he  probably  had  the  more  than  half- 
formed  intention  already  in  his  mind.  He  later  speaks  of 
being  warned  to  enter  the  cloister  by  a  heavenly  vision.  What 
this  was,  whether  connected  with  the  storm  or  not,  is  entirely 

Old  Hans  Luther  was  bitterly  opposed  to  his  son's  step, 
which  he  believed  destroyed  all  chance  of  a  successful  career. 
Martin  also  cast  some  longing,  lingering  looks  behind,  but 
dared  not  turn  back,  and  hastened  the  day  of  his  entrance  to 
shorten  this  temptation.  On  July  16  he  invited  some  friends, 
including  "  honorable  matrons  and  maidens,"  to  a  farewell 
supper.  The  evening  was  spent  in  music  and  good  cheer ;  the 
next  day  he  entered  the  monastery. 

The  reception  of  a  would-be  brother  was  a  solemn  occasion. 
The  young  man  fell  down  before  the  feet  of  the  prior  and  was 


asked  what  he  wanted,  to  which  he  replied,  "  God's  mercy 
and  yours."  The  superior  instructed  him  in  the  hardships,  the 
duties,  the  sacrifices,  and  also  in  the  blessedness  of  the  life 
he  had  chosen.  He  was  then  put  under  the  care  of  an  older 
brother,  and  obliged  to  fulfil  a  year  of  probation.  During  this 
period  he  not  only  learned  the  rules  of  the  order  —  such  as  the 
prayers  five  times  a  day  —  but  he  was  instructed  in  the  higher 
spiritual  life.  At  the  same  time  he  was  obliged  to  do  the  hum- 
blest menial  service,  such  as  sweeping  and  cleaning.  Luther's 
novitiate  ended  in  September,  1506,  when  he  took  the  irre- 
vocable vows  of  poverty,  chastity,  and  obedience,  through  which 
he  was  supposed  to  die  to  the  world  and  be  "  rebaptized  "  to  a 
higher  life. 

Brother  Martin  was  ordained  priest  in  February,  1507.  The 
celebration  of  the  first  mass  was  a  great  occasion,  to  which  he 
invited  his  father,  his  kinsman  Conrad  Hutter  of  Eisenach,  and 
the  parish  priest  of  that  town,  whom  he  had  learned  to  love 
while  at  school.  Luther's  first  extant  letter  is  the  invitation  to 
this  friend  to  attend  the  mass :  — 


Erfurt,  April  22, 1507. 

.  .  .  God,  glorious  and  holy  in  all  his  works,  has  deigned  to  exalt 
me,  wretched  and  unworthy  sinner,  and  to  call  me  into  his  sublime 
ministry  only  for  his  mercy's  sake.  I  ought  to  be  thankful  for  the  glory 
of  such  divine  goodness  (as  much  as  dust  may  be)  and  to  fulfil  the 
duty  laid  upon  me. 

Wherefore  the  fathers  have  set  aside  Sunday,  May  2,  for  my  first 
mass,  God  willing.  That  day  I  shall  officiate  before  God  for  the  first 
time,  the  day  being  chosen  for  the  convenience  of  my  father.  .  .  . 
Dearest  father,  as  you  are  in  age  and  care  for  me,  master  in  merit  and 
brother  in  religion,  if  private  business  will  permit  you,  deign  to  come 
and  help  me  with  your  gracious  presence  and  prayers,  that  my  sacrifice 
may  be  acceptable  in  God's  sight.  .  .  . 

Whether  Braun  accepted  the  invitation  is  not  known.  Lu- 
ther's father,  however,  who  seems  to  have  been  partially  recon- 
ciled, came,  bringing  a  number  of  friends,  and  gave  his  son  a 
handsome  present.  The  two  had  an  earnest  talk,  the  son  urging 

THE  MONK  11 

that  he  was  warned  to  become  a  monk  by  a  terrible  heavenly- 
vision,  to  which  his  father  replied  that  he  hoped  it  was  not  an 
apparition  of  the  devil.  Again,  when  Martin  tried  to  justify 
himself,  and  gently  reproached  his  father  for  his  anger,  the  old 
man  replied,  "  Have  you  never  heard  that  a  man  should  honor 
his  parents  ?  " 

Luther's  studies  were  not  long  interrupted  by  his  vow.  On 
the  contrary,  he  continued  philosophy  and  took  up  divinity,  a 
nearly  allied  science.  He  applied  himself  with  such  zeal  and 
success  that  about  eighteen  months  after  his  first  mass  he  was 
called  to  the  recently  founded  University  of  Wittenberg  to  teach 
Aristotle's  Ethics.  He  spent  a  year  in  this  position,  at  the  same 
time  continuing  his  own  studies.  He  took  his  first  theological 
degree  (baccalaureus  ad  biblia)  on  March  9,  1509,  about  the 
same  time  writing  his  second  extant  letter  to  Braun,  apologizing 
for  leaving  Erfurt  without  bidding  him  farewell.  The  letter, 
which  is  hastily  written,  and  somewhat  faltering,  has  one 
extremely  interesting  passage  :  — 

Now  I  am  at  Wittenberg,  by  God's  command  or  permission.  If  you 
wish  to  know  my  condition  I  am  well,  thank  God,  but  my  studies  are 
very  severe,  especially  philosophy,  which  from  the  first  I  would  will- 
ingly have  changed  for  theology,  I  mean  that  theology  which  searches 
out  the  meat  of  the  nut,  the  kernel  of  the  grain  and  the  marrow  of  the 
bones.  But  God  is  God ;  man  is  often,  if  not  always,  at  fault  in  his 
judgment.  He  is  our  God,  he  will  sweetly  govern  us  forever. 

In  the  fall  of  1509  Luther  was  sent  back  to  Erfurt  "  because 
he  had  not  satisfied  the  Wittenberg  faculty."  This  sentence  in 
the  Dean's  book,  with  Luther's  own  later  addition,  "because  he 
had  no  means  :  —  Erfurt  must  pay,"  is  usually  taken  to  mean 
that  he  had  not  the  money  to  pay  the  academic  fees.  It  is  also 
probable  that  there  was  some  trouble  about  the  lectures  he  was 
to  give ;  he  wishing  to  discontinue  philosophy  and  take  up  the 
Bible.  It  was  the  academic  rule  that  before  lecturing  on  the 
Scriptures  a  young  professor  should  devote  three  semesters  to 
expounding  Peter  Lombard's  Sentences,  the  common  textbook 
in  theology.  This  Luther  did  at  Erfurt,  where  he  remained  for 
about  twenty-one  months,  until  he  was  called  back  to  a  perman- 


ent  position  at  Wittenberg  in  the  summer  of  1511.  This  stay 
at  Erfurt  was  interrupted  by  the  journey  to  Rome. 

Such  is  the  bare  history  of  the  outward  events  of  the  seven 
years  in  the  cloister.  Far  more  interesting,  though  more  difficult 
to  trace,  is  the  record  of  his  inward  life  during  the  same  time. 
What  did  the  young  monk  experience  which  fitted  him  for  the 
great  duties  which  lay  before  him  ?  What,  in  short,  was  his 
development  ? 

Instead  of  finding  peace  within  the  monastic  cell,  at  first 
doubt  and  despair  only  increased.  His  table-talk,  taken  down 
late  in  life,  is  full  of  statements  of  the  utter  depth  of  the  suffer- 
ings of  the  doubter  of  his  own  salvation.  God  appeared  to  him 
as  a  cruel  judge ;  he  felt  that  he  could  never  do  enough  to  win 
his  favor  and  deserve  free  pardon.  Though  there  is  some  reason 
to  believe  that  in  looking  back  he  painted  his  past  even  darker 
than  it  really  was,  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  he  went  through 
agonies  before  he  attained  strength  and  peace  of  mind.  His 
course  of  thought  can  be  followed  by  studying  the  books  he 
read,  with  his  own  notes  on  them. 

The  theologians  he  read  belonged  to  what  was  then  called 
"the  modern"  school  —  "the  modernists"  of  the  sixteenth 
century.  Thomas  Aquinas,  perhaps  the  greatest  of  the  school- 
men, was  not  much  regarded ;  he  belonged  to  the  old-fashioned, 
superseded  faction.  The  philosopher  most  studied  was  William 
Occam ;  next  to  him  Gabriel  Biel,  the  Parisian  doctors  Ailly 
and  Gerson,  Bernard  of  Clairvaux,  Bonaventura,  John  Mau- 
burn,  and  Gerhard  of  Ziitphen.  The  fundamental  thesis  of  the 
Occamists  was  that  man  can  do  anything  he  will  —  fulfil  the 
Ten  Commandments  to  the  letter  or  persuade  his  reason  that 
white  is  black.  The  cloister  adopted  this  view  and  held  that  by 
a  man's  own  acts,  asceticism,  prayer,  and  meditation,  he  could 
prepare  his  soul  for  union  with  God.  Biel  especially  emphasized 
the  possibility  and  duty  of  a  man  hating  his  own  sins ;  —  fear, 
said  he,  is  not  enough  to  make  repentance  acceptable  to  God. 

Luther  took  this  all  in  and  tried  to  act  accordingly.  He 
fulfilled  all  the  monastic  duties  with  punctuality ;  he  buffeted 
his  body  with  zeal  to  keep  it  under ;  he  froze  in  his  unheated 
cell,  he  starved  himself  until  he  was  a  skeleton  M  so  that  one 

THE  MONK  13 

could  almost  count  his  bones,"  he  underwent  such  austerities 
that  he  was  found  fainting  by  his  brothers.  But  all  this  did  not 
bring  him  peace.  After  each  access  of  devotion  came  a  fresh 
access  of  despair. 

A  second  doctrine  that  Luther  imbibed  frojB  the^theqlogians 
was  that  God  is  pure,  arbitrary  will.  He  had  created  the  world  y 
solely  for  his  own  pleasure ;  hisjyill  made  right  and  wrong ;  and 
finally  his  arbitrary  choice  alone  conditioned  man's  salvation.  *w 
But  in  this  latter  particular,  having  promised  to  consider  certain 
actions  as  meritorious,  he  has  put  in  each  man's  power  to  obtain 
his  favor  by  performing  these  acts,  and  his  acceptance  of  man 
is  sealed  by  the  sacraments  of  the  Church.  The  young  monk 
could  not  bring  himself  to  love  a  God  like  that ;  he  feared,  he 
even  hated  him.  "  When  I  looked  for  Christ,"  he  said,  "  it 
seemed  to  me  as  if  I  saw  the  devil." 

Luther's  development  is  largely  a  history  of  his  enfranchise- 
ment from  the'  Occamist  theology.  But  even  after  he  had  freed 
himself  from  the  oppressive  doctrines  he  bore  lasting  marks  of 
the  apprenticeship  in  Occam's  school.  In  1515  we  find  him  call- 
ing these  scholastics  the  "  hog-doctors,"  but  throughout  life  he 
carried  certain  of  their  teachings  with  him.  Occam  —  the 
"  modernist "  —  was  the  sharpest  critic  of  the  mediaeval  Church, 
and  especially  of  the  hierarchy.  He  said  flatly  that  popes  and 
councils  could  err,  and  remembering  this  doubtless  made  the 
break  with  Rome  easier  for  Luther. 

But  taken  as  a  whole  the  reading  of  scholastic  philosophy 
only  deepened  his  perplexity  and  anguish  of  soul.  He  had  to 
win  his  own  way  to  light,  which  came  at  last.  Several  of  his 
fellow  monks  helped  him  with  counsel  and  comfort,  especially 
his  spiritual  director  who  sought  to  combat  his  doubts  by  giving 
him  orthodox  literature.  Of  this  man  Luther  speaks  long  after- 
wards :  — 

I  remember  with  what  ardor  and  pleasure  I  read  Athanasius^  dia- 
logue on  the  Trinity  durmg  my  first  year  in  the  cloister  when  my 
monastic  pedagogue  at  Erfurt,  an  excellent  man  and  a  true  Christian 
under  the  cursed  cowl,  gave  me  a  copy  of  it  made  by  himself. 

This  same  wise  old  man  pointed  out  to  him  that  God  was  not 


angry  with  him,  but  he  with  God,  and  emphasized  the  duty  of 
believing  in  the  forgiveness  of  sins.  This  was  the  first  comfort 
he  received. 

Most  of  all  he  was  helped  by  John  Staupitz,  since  1503  the 
Vicar  of  the  German  province  of  Augustinians,  and  dean  of  the 
faculty  of  theology  at  Wittenberg.  With  statesmanlike  breadth 
combining  energy  and  tact,  he  constantly  sought  to  purify,  con- 
solidate, and  enlarge  his  order,  but  while  prosecuting  these  com- 
prehensive plans  never  forgot  small  chapters  and  young  brothers 
in  need  of  help.  His  relations  with  Luther  were  so  special  that 
some  have  proposed  to  regard  his  influence  as  the  decisive 
factor  in  the  Reformer's  development,  but  this  view  is  hardly 
justified  by  the  known  facts.  With  many  expressions  of  grati- 
tude from  the  young  man  to  the  elder  we  have  his  own  sorrow- 
ful statement  that  even  Staupitz  did  not  rightly  understand 
him.  His  superior,  a  mystic  in  doctrine,  helped  him  not  so  much 
by  teaching  as  by  loving  him.  The  vicar  was  a  man  who  under- 
stood men,  and  it  was  due  to  his  recommendation  that  Luther 
received  the  call  to  Wittenberg. 

The  young  monk  was  chiefly  illumined  by  the  perusal  of  the 
Bible.  The  book  was  a  very  common  one,  there  having  been  no 
less  than  one  hundred  editions  of  the  Latin  Vulgate  published 
before  1500,  as  well  as  a  number  of  German  translations.  The 
rule  of  the  Augustinians  prescribed  diligent  reading  of  the 
Scriptures,  and  Luther  obeyed  this  regulation  with  joyous  zeal, 
in  spite  of  the  astonishment  of  Staupitz  and  discouragement  on 
the  part  of  Dr.  Usingen. 

_^Next  to  the  Bible,  St.  Augustine  was  the  most  helpful  of  all 
the  writers  read  by  Luther.  He  began  to  know  him  at  latest  in 
1508  ;  a  recent  find  has  given  us  the  very  copy  of  Augustine's 
works  that  he  used,  with  the  margins  crammed  full  of  notes. 
According  to  these  indications  what  impressed  him  most  was 
the  saint's  mysticism  —  his  philosophy  of  God,  the  world,  the 
soul,  the  worthlessness  of  earthly  life  and  the  blessedness  of  the 
life  hid  with  God.  These  thoughts  so  cheered  him  that  at  times 
he  felt  as  if  he  was  "among  choirs  of  angels." 

With  all  the  helps  that  he  received,  it  was  years  before  he 
found  even  the  key  of  his  solution.  The  letter  to  Braun  of  1507 

THE  MONK  15 

witnesses  the  downcast,  trembling  posture  of  his  soul.  At  the 
first  mass  he  experienced  torturing  doubts:  "  When  I  came  to 
the  words  •  thee,  most  merciful  Father,'  "  he  says,  "  the  thought 
that  I  had  to  speak  to  God  without  a  mediator  almost  made  me 
flee  like  another  Judas."  a  Chr  «*s  *.'«i?  / 

It  was  one  day  at  Wittenberg  in  1508  or  1509,  as  he  was  sit- 
ting in  his  cell  in  a  little  tower,  that  his  life  message  came  to 
him,  and  with  it  the  first  assurance  of  permanent  comfort  and 
peace.  He  was  reading  Paul's  Epistle  to  the  Romans,  and  came 
to  the  verse  (i,  17)  "  The  just  shall  live  by  faith."  Ponder- 
ing this,  it  came  to  him  that  it  was  not,  as  he  had  been  taught, 
by  man's  own  works  that  he  was  redeemed,  but  by  faith  in 
God  and  the  Saviour.  Justification  by  faith  has  been  rightly 
selected  as  the  cardinal  doctrine  of  the  Lutheran  theology ;  he 
himself  recognized  in  it  the  corner-stone  of  his  whole  life. 

Of  course  Luther's  development  was  not  completed  at  once. 
Even  after  the  master-key  had  been  found,  the  long  struggle 
continued,  and  other  factors  entered  in  to  modify  and  enrich  his 
character.  He  entered  the  monastery  to  save  his  soul,  and  the 
struggle  for  peace  took  twelve  long  years  before  the  monk  was 
ripe  for  the  great  deeds  he  was  called  on  to  perform.  No  one 
can  get  even  an  idea  of  what  the  struggle  cost  him  save  by  read- 
ing after  him  the  folios  and  quartos  he  perused,  and  trying  to  fol- 
low him  in  all  that  tangled  labyrinth.  And  yet  his  development 
was  perfectly  normal  and  even.  That  his  health  suffered  some- 
what from  asceticism  is  undoubtedly  true,  but  there  were  no 
morbid  symptoms  in  his  conversion.  Comparing  it  to  that  of  fr*J 
other  famous  Christians,  there  were  no  visions  such  as  Loyola  ^j'A^ 
saw,  and  no  moral  breakdown  such  as  that  of  Augustine.  In 
those  years  of  hardship,  meditation,  study,  and  thought,  he  laid 
the  foundations  of  that  adamantine  character  which  stood  un- 
shaken amidst  a  tempest  that  rocked  Europe  to  its  base. 



Work  at  Erfurt  was  interrupted  by  one  of  the  most  import- 
ant and  interesting  events  in  Luther's  early  career,  the  journey 
to  Rome.  As  nearly  all  known  about  this  trip  comes  from  re- 
miniscences, of  many  years  afterwards,  there  is  a  good  deal  that 
is  obscure.  Scholars  are  divided  on  a  number  of  points  con- 
nected with  the  event,  among  others  on  the  time  at  which  it 
took  place.  The  probability  points  to  the  date  given  at  the  head 
of  this  chapter,  but  this  is  far  from  certain ;  many  students 
think  the  trip  to  Rome  was  at  the  same  season  a  year  later,  and 
a  few  find  still  other  dates.  The  Reformer  in  his  table-talk  places 
it  now  in  one  year,  now  in  another,  though  the  majority  of  re- 
ferences give  1510.  Many  other  points  are  also  unsettled ;  the 
account  in  this  chapter  follows  what  seems  to  me  the  greatest 
probability  and  the  best  authority. 

The  cause  of  the  trip  is  connected  with  the  history  of  the 
Augustinian  order.  As  previously  stated,  when  Proles  carried 
through  his  reform  of  1473-1475  all  the  cloisters  did  not 
adhere  to  the  movement.  Staupitz  was  anxious  to  complete 
the  work  of  his  predecessor  by  uniting  all  the  chapters  again, 
and  some  years  after  he  was  elected  vicar  of  the  Augustinian 
Observants  in  1503,  the  opportunity  arrived.  Securing  the 
interest  of  the  general  of  the  order  at  Rome,  and  of  the  Curia, 
on  June  26,  1510,  he  was  appointed  provincial  of  the  whole 
Saxon  province,  with  authority  to  force  the  non-observant  clois- 
ters into  the  reformed  congregation.  Several  of  these  chapters, 
who  felt  themselves  aggrieved,  decided  to  appeal  to  Rome,  and 
their  motion  was  supported  by  some  of  the  cloisters  under 
Staupitz's  jurisdiction,  including  Erfurt.  The  disaffected  chose 
as  their  agent  John  von  Mecheln  of  Nuremberg,  and  with  him 
went  Martin  Luther. 

It  is  probable  that  the  latter  had  little  or  nothing  to  do  with 


the  business  in  hand.  At  any  rate  he  never  mentions  it.  More- 
over, his  warm  relations  with  Staupitz  make  it  unlikely  that  he 
would  be  willing  to  take  a  decided  part  against  him.  The  laws 
of  the  order  required  that  the  brothers  should  always  travel 
two  and  two,  and  he  was  simply  the  soclus  itinerarius  of  John 
von  Mecheln.  He  grasped  eagerly  at  the  opportunity  to  visit 
the  Eternal  City ;  indeed,  he  once  stated  that  the  purpose  of 
his  going  was  to  make  a  general  confession  of  all  his  sins  and 
to  receive  absolution. 

The  brothers  set  out  in  October,  not  cheerfully  talking  side 
by  side,  but  walking  silently  in  single  file.  Their  itinerary  is 
not  known  ;  there  were  various  routes  used  by  pilgrims,  and  it 
is  impossible  to  judge  much  from  Luther's  own  vague  mention 
of  places.  When  they  arrived  in  Italy,  they  discovered  the  in- 
sidious quality  of  the  climate,  as  the  following  incident  re- 
lates :  — 

On  the  journey  to  Rome  the  brother  with  whom  I  was  travelling 
and  I  were  very  tired  one  night  and  slept  with  open  windows  until 
about  six  o'clock.  When  we  awoke,  our  heads  were  full  of  vapors,  so 
that  we  could  only  go  four  or  five  miles  that  day,  tormented  by  thirst 
and  yet  sickened  by  the  wine  and  desiring  only  the  water  which  is 
deadly  there.  At  length  we  were  refreshed  by  two  pomegranates  with 
which  excellent  fruit  God  saved  our  lives. 

The  journey  took  the  brothers  through  Florence,  rich  then 
as  now  with  the  art  treasures  which  are  the  delight  and  wonder 
of  the  world.  It  is  characteristic  of  Luther,  who  says  very  little 
about  the  painting  and  sculpture  he  saw,  that  he  should  have 
carefully  visited  the  hospitals.  The  principal  one  was  the  Spe- 
dale  di  Santa  Maria  Nuova,  just  back  of  the  cathedral,  founded 
by  Portinari,  the  father  of  Dante's  Beatrice.  Not  far  from  it  is 
the  foundling  hospital,  the  Spedale  degli  Innocenti,  founded  in 
the  fifteenth  century  and  richly  decorated  with  medallions  by 
Andrea  della  Robbia.  The  pilgrim  related  his  experience 
thus :  — 

The  hospitals  of  the  Italians  are  built  like  the  palaces,  supplied  with 
the  best  food  and  drink,  and  tended  by  diligent  servants  and  skilful 
physicians.  The  painted  bedsteads  are  covered  with  clean  linen.  When 


a  patient  is  brought  in,  his  clothes  are  taken  off  and  given  to  a  notary  to 
keep  honestly.  Then  they  put  a  white  bed-gown  on  him  and  lay  him  be- 
tween the  clean  sheets  of  the  beautifully  painted  bed,  and  two  physi- 
cians are  brought  at  once.  Servants  fetch  food  and  drink  in  clean 
glass  vessels,  and  do  not  touch  the  food  even  with  a  finger,  but  offer 
it  to  the  patient  on  a  tray.  Honorable  matrons,  veiled,  serve  the  poor 
all  day  long  without  making  their  names  known,  and  at  evening  re- 
turn home.  These  carefully  tended  hospitals  I  saw  at  Florence.  They 
also  have  foundling  asylums,  where  children  are  well  sheltered  and 
nourished  and  taught ;  they  are  all  dressed  in  uniform  and  most  pater- 
nally provided  for. 

Continuing  the  trip  south,  the  brothers  finally  caught  sight 
of  Rome.  The  emotions  of  the  young  man  were  overpowering ; 
he  fell  on  his  face  and  cried:  " Hail,  holy  Rome  !  " 

The  month  of  December  was  spent  here.  While  his  com- 
panion did  the  business  of  the  order,  Luther  spent  the  time 
seeing  the  sights.  There  was  then  a  guide-book,  the  so-called 
Mirabilia  Romae,  which  had  been  published  as  a  block-book 
before  the  days  of  movable  types.  That  Luther  used  it  is  prob- 
able from  parallels  found  in  the  table-talk,  and  Professor 
Hausrath  has  constructed  his  whole  visit  from  this  hint,  just 
as  one  might  imagine  what  a  modern  tourist  saw  by  consulting 
Baedeker.  What  impressed  him  most  of  all  the  sights  were 
the  remains  of  classical  antiquity,  the  Coliseum,  the  baths,  the 
Pantheon.  He  also  speaks  of  the  catacombs  of  Calixtus  and  of 
some  of  the  churches. 

"  I  was  a  foolish  pilgrim,"  says  he,  "and  believed  all  that 
I  was  told."  He  visited  all  the  shrines  to  take  advantage  of  the 
indulgences  granted  to  pious  worshippers,  and  even  went  so 
far  as  to  wish  that  his  parents  were  dead  that  he  might  get 
their  souls  out  of  purgatory,  for  which  charitable  work  so 
many  opportunities  offered.  One  of  the  most  celebrated  shrines 
of  the  Holy  City  is  the  chapel  Sancta  Sanctorum  at  the  eastern 
end  of  the  Piazza  di  San  Giovanni,  in  which  was,  and  still  is, 
the  flight  of  twenty-eight  steps,  taken,  as  the  Romans  fabled, 
from  the  judgment  hall  of  Pilate  in  Jerusalem.  Leo  IV  had 
granted  an  indulgence  of  nine  years  for  every  step  climbed  by 
the  pilgrim  on  his  knees  while  saying  the  appointed  prayers. 


If  one  may  trust  the  story  which  Luther's  son  Paul  remem- 
bered hearing  his  father  tell,1  he  started  climbing  these  stairs 
and  praying,  but  suddenly  remembered  the  verse  in  Romans, 
"  The  just  shall  live  by  faith,"  arose  and  descended. 

Luther  could  not  fail  to  be  shocked  by  many  things  he  saw. 
At  the  time  they  did  not  shake  his  faith  in  the  Church,  nor  his 
allegiance  to  the  Pope,  but  when  the  breach  came  in  after 
years  his  heart  was  hardened  by  the  remembrance  of  the  visit. 
He  could  never  have  attacked  Rome  so  vigorously  and  suc- 
cessfully in  1520  had  it  not  been  for  what  he  saw  in  1510.  He 
often  refers  to  it  in  words  like  these :  — 

Rome  is  a  harlot.  I  would  not  take  a  thousand  gulden  not  to 
have  seen  it,  for  I  never  would  have  believed  the  true  state  of  affairs 
from  what  other  people  told  me,  had  I  not  seen  it  myself.  The 
Italians  mocked  us  for  being  pious  monks,  for  they  hold  Christians 
fools.  They  say  six  or  seven  masses  in  the  time  it  takes  me  to  say 
one,  for  they  take  money  for  it  and  I  do  not.  The  only  crime  in 
Italy  is  poverty.  They  still  punish  homicide  and  theft  a  little,  for 
they  have  to,  but  no  other  sin  is  too  gross  for  them.  .  .  . 

So  great  and  bold  is  Roman  impiety  that  neither  God  nor  man, 
neither  sin  nor  shame,  is  feared.  All  good  men  who  have  seen  Rome 
bear  witness  to  this ;  all  bad  ones  come  back  worse  than  before. 

The  return  journey  took  about  seven  weeks.  Passing  through 
Milan,  Luther  was  surprised  to  find  priests  who  claimed  not 
to  acknowledge  the  supremacy  of  the  Pope,  for  they  followed 
St.  Ambrose.  His  eyes  were  open  to  the  beauty  and  fertility 
of  the  Lombard  plains.    He  arrived  at  Erfurt  in  February. 

It  is  not  without  interest  to  note  another  trip,  though  one 
of  infinitely  less  importance  than  the  Italian  journey,  taken  by 
Luther  in  his  monastic  days.  This  was  to  Cologne,  where  he 
saw  the  relics  of  the  three  kings.  He  never  forgot  the  wine 
he  drank  in  this  city,  which  he  said  was  the  best  he  ever  tasted.2 

1  This  celebrated  story  was  first  published  in  its  original  form  in  1903.  Kost- 
lin-Kawerau,  i,  749.  Paul  was  only  eleven  years  old  when  the  story  was  told  (in 
1544)  and  he  wrote  it  down  thirty-eight  years  later. 

2  Weimar  edition,  xxxiv,  i,  22,  and  note  at  end  of  volume. 


THE  PROFESSOR.  1512-1517 

Wittenberg  is  situated  on  the  banks  of  the  Elbe  about 
halfway  between  Leipsic  and  Berlin.  The  broad  and  winding 
river  is  not  at  this  point  navigable.  The  country  is  flat,  the 
soil  sandy  and  poor.  Toward  the  end  of  the  fifteenth  century 
Wittenberg  was  a  mere  hamlet,  containing  about  three  hun- 
dred and  fifty  low,  ugly  wooden  houses,  with  an  old  church 
and  a  town  hall.  To  explain  its  rise  to  prominence  as  a  uni- 
versity town  and  military  post  a  short  digression  on  contem- 
porary history  is  necessary  —  an  explanation  which  will  also 
serve  to  clear  up  the  matter  of  the  two  Saxonys,  a  standing 
puzzle  to  foreigners  who  read  German  history. 

The  treaty  of  Leipsic,  August,  1485,  divided  the  lands  of  the 
house  of  Wettin  forever  into  two  parts.  The  so-called  u  Elect- 
oral District "  (Kurkreis)  of  which  Wittenberg  was  the  centre, 
together  with  some  territory  to  the  southward  including  Eise- 
nach, Weimar,  and  Coburg,  was  given  to  the  elder  brother, 
Ernest,  with  the  title  of  Elector  of  Saxony.  The  younger, 
Albert,  who  was  called  Duke  of  Saxony,  obtained  the  smaller 
but  better  portion  of  the  land,  including  the  two  cities  of 
Leipsic  and  Dresden  with  the  surrounding  country. 

Frederic,  surnamed  the  Wise,  who  became  Elector  of  Saxony 
in  1486,  at  once  started  to  replenish  his  diminished  resources. 
He  chose  Wittenberg  as  a  sort  of  capital  of  his  northern  terri- 
tory —  usually  himself  residing  at  Altenburg  in  the  south.  He 
began  immediately  to  ornament  the  town  with  public  build- 
ings, including  a  castle  and  a  church,  for  the  decoration  of 
which  he  employed  Albert  Diirer,  the  Nuremberg  painter.  In 
1502  he  founded  a  university,  in  order  that  his  subjects  might 
not  have  to  go  to  Leipsic,  belonging  to  his  cousin,  or  to  Erfurt, 
under  the  jurisdiction  of  the  Elector  of  Mayence.  He  ap- 
pointed Staupitz  first  dean  of  the  faculty  of  theology,  intending 


that  most  of  the  professors  should  be  monks  of  the  Augustinian 
order,  which  had  a  chapter  at  Wittenberg.  Staupitz  entered 
into  the  work  with  zeal ;  he  rebuilt  and  enlarged  the  Black 
Cloister  (as  the  monastery  was  called,  from  the  popular  name 
of  the  Augustinians  as  Black  Monks),  began  to  lecture  on  the 
Bible,  and  gathered  around  him  some  young  men  whom  he  in- 
tended to  train  to  fill  positions  as  teachers. 

The  one  in  whom  he  had  most  confidence  was  Martin  Luther. 
It  was  at  his  recommendation  that  the  young  brother  had  been 
made  instructor  in  philosophy  during  the  year  1508-09,  and  it 
was  also  at  his  recommendation  that  Martin  was  again  called 
in  the  summer  of  1511  to  be  professor  of  divinity.  The  vicar 
was  anxious  to  retire  and  wished  the  younger  man  to  take  his 
own  place.  In  order  to  do  this  a  degree  of  doctor  was  consid- 
ered necessary,  to  which,  at  first,  Luther  was  averse.  Many 
years  later  he  told  the  following  story,  so  characteristic  of  the 
vicar's  gentle  humor :  — 

Dr.  Staupitz  said  to  me  one  day  as  we  were  sitting  under  the  pear- 
tree  still  standing  in  the  court,  "  You  should  take  the  degree  of  doctor 
so  as  to  have  something  to  do."  ...  I  objected  that  my  strength  was 
already  used  up,  and  that  I  could  not  long  survive  the  duties  imposed 
on  me  by  a  professorship.  He  answered :  "  Do  you  not  know  that  the 
Lord  has  a  great  deal  of  business  to  attend  to,  in  which  he  needs  the 
assistance  of  clever  people  ?  If  you  should  die,  you  might  be  his  coun- 

Such  argument  could  not  be  withstood,  and  accordingly 
October  18,  1512,  was  set  aside  for  Luther  to  take  the  highest 
degree  in  theology,  that  of  doctor  in  divinity.  His  invitation 
to  his  brothers  at  Erfurt  to  attend  the  ceremony  is  interesting, 
both  because  of  the  matter  it  contains,  and  because  of  its  per- 
fect self-possession  in  contrast  to  the  previous  letters. 


Wittenberg,  September  22,  1512. 
Greeting  in  the  Lord !  "Reverend,  venerable  and  dear  Fathers !  Be- 
hold the  day  of  St.  Luke  is  at  hand,  on  which,  in  obedience  to  you 
and  to  our  reverend  Vicar  Staupitz,  I  shall  take  my  examination  in 


theology  in  the  hall  of  the  university.  ...  I  do  not  now  accuse  my- 
self of  unworthiness,  lest  I  should  seem  to  seek  praise  and  honor  by 
my  humility;  God  and  my  conscience  know  how  worthy  and  how 
grateful  I  am  for  this  public  honor.  ...  I  beg  that  you  will  deign  to 
come  and  be  present  at  the  celebration,  if  convenient,  for  the  glory 
and  honor  of  religion  and  especially  of  our  chapter.  .  .  . 

After  taking  the  degree,  to  which  he  seems  to  have  been 
thoroughly  reconciled,  Luther  began  to  lecture  on  the  Bible,  a 
practice  which,  he  kept  up  all  his  life.  The  recent  publication 
of  the  marginal  notes  (1509-10)  in  some  of  the  books  he  used, 
and  of  his  lectures  on  the  Psalms  (1513-15),  on  the  Epistle 
to  the  Romans  (1515-16),  and  on  the  Book  of  Judges  (1516), 
together  with  the  Commentary  on  Galatians,  printed  by  Luther 
himself  in  1519  (from  lectures  given  in  1516-17),  gives  us  a 
deep  insight  into  his  methods  and  results. 

Glancing  first  at  the  more  external  qualities,  these  lectures 
and  notes  evince  extreme  thoroughness  —  not  a  bad  quality  in 
a  professor,  and  one  for  which  German  professors  have  ever 
been  justly  famous.  He  not  only  turned  the  pages  of  his  books, 
he  read,  marked,  learned,  and  inwardly  digested  them.  He 
criticised  his  authors  and  with  such  acumen  that  two  works 
attributed  to  Augustine,  the  genuineness  of  which  he  first 
disputed,  have  been  proved  by  modern  criticism' to  be  spurious. 
He  sought  diligently  for  the  best  authorities  and  the  most 
recent  books.  In  his  Commentary  on  the  Psalms  he  used  the 
edition  of  the  French  humanist  Lef£vre  d'Ltaples,  published 
in  1509.  This  author,  "a  little  Luther,"  as  Michelet ^ called 
him,  is  a  chief  guide  in  the  exegesis  of  the  text.  Next  to  him, 
or  perhaps  one  should  say,  ahead  of  him,  the  influence  of  Au- 
gustine, and  through  him  of  the  Neoplatonic  school,  is  the  most 
important  element.  Comparing  these  lectures  with  the  notes  on 
Lombard  (1509-10),  a  considerable  advance  in  freedom  and 
power  is  noticeable.  The  early  work  is  stiff,  formal,  and  timid ; 
in  the  later,  though  the  text  and  authorities  are  still  followed 
fairly  closely,  there  is  more  freedom  of  treatment  and  more  of 
the  subjective  element.  The  new  religious  ideas,  especially  that 
of  justification  by  faith,  can  be  plainly  made  out,  and  several 
opinions  which  could  find  no  room  in  the  Catholic  Church  come 


forward.  In  fact,  as  far  as  we  can  judge,  it  was  in  these  lec- 
tures, his  first  on  the  Bible,  that  Luther  began  to  formulate 
his  peculiar  theology. 

In  the  summer  semester  of  1515,  about  May,  Luther  began 
to  lecture  on  Romans,  continuing  the  course  for  about  three 
semesters.  His  principal  guide,  at  first,  was  again  the  humanist 
Lefevre,  whose  text  of  St.  Paul's  epistles  had  appeared  in 
1512.  While  Luther  was  still  lecturing,  in  March,  1516,  Eras- 
mus' edition  of  the  New  Testament  with  a  new  Latin  transla- 
tion and  notes  came  out,  and  was  immediately  procured  by  the 
Wittenberg  professor.  From  this  time  on,  beginning,  namely, 
with  the  ninth  chapter  of  Romans,  Erasmus  took  the  lead  as 
an  exegetical  authority.  Not  that  the  lecturer  follows  him 
slavishly;  he  balances  authorities,  and  occasionally  disagrees 
with  all  of  them.  Nevertheless  we  can  hardly  overestimate  the 
importance  of  the  Greek  Testament  on  the  Reformer's  thought ; 
from  this  time  on  almost  all  of  his  important  theological  work 
is  founded  on  it,  and  of  course  on  the  material  supplied  by  its 

The  Commentary  on  Romans  is  a  great  human  document, 
priceless  for  its  biographical  interest.  So  important  is  it  in  the 
Jiistory  of  the  author's  thought  that  Father  Denifle,  who  first 
called  attention  to  it,1  was  inclined  to  date  the  commencement 
of  the  Reformation  from  it.  Though  we  cannot  agree  with  him 
in  this,  for,  according  to  our  reading  of  the  sources,  Luther  had 
attained  his  fundamental  convictions  in  previous  years,  we  must 
assign  immense  importance  to  these  lectures  for  the  develop- 
ment and  perfection  of  these  ideas.  The  care  with  which  he 
prepared  the  lectures  is  plain  ;  he  laboriously  annotated  almost 
every  word  of  the  text,  and  then  wrote  out,  in  a  fair,  legible 
copy,  the  whole  discourse.  There  is  still  some  remnant  of 
medisevalism  in  the  manner  in  which  he  explains  the  text  in  two 
or  three  different  ways,  but  through  the  old  dress  the  modern 
spirit  shines  forth.    Luther  was  one  of  the  first  to  show  what 

1  He  knew  it  in  some  notes  taken  by  students  now  in  the  Vatican  archives. 
The  original  manuscript,  long  supposed  to  be  lost,  was  discovered  but  a  few  years 
ago  in  the  show-cases  of  the  Royal  Library  at  Berlin,  and  first  published  in  1908. 
I  have  read  a  portion  of  it  in  manuscript. 


Paul  really  felt,  thought,  and  taught,  though  some  others,  like 
Lefevre  and  Colet,  had  preceded  him  by  a  few  years  in  apply- 
ing the  new  learning  to  the  elucidation  of  Scripture.  These 
commentaries  were  and  are  valuable  contributions  to  exegesis. 

But  they  are  far  more ;  they  are  living  epistles  from  Brother 
Martin's  heart.  His  lofty  ideas  are  taking  shape,  and  what  an 
insight  into  his  deep  ponderings  do  such  sentences  as  these 
give :  "  We  are  partly  sinners  and  partly  just,  but  nothing  if 
not  penitent,  for  repentance  is  the  mean  between  sin  and 
righteousness  "  ;  and  again,  "  We  are  not  called  to  ease  but  to 
labor  against  our  passions."  Throughout  the  whole,  the  theo- 
logical, practical,  and  moral  interest  is  the  dominant  one.  The 
lecturer  is  even  more  interested  in  his  own  day  than  in  Paul's. 
With  what  solemn  words  does  he  arraign  the  princes  and  pre- 
lates who  oppress  the  poor  and  live  only  for  luxury  and  pride ! 
How  often  does  he  refer  to  the  events  of  the  day,  the  Reuchlin 
trial,  the  wars  of  Pope  Julius,  or  of  Duke  George,  or  of  the 
Bishop  of  Brandenburg !  Again,  in  words  which  have  a  double 
meaning  for  us  who  know  their  sequel,  he  blames  the  sellers 
of  indulgences  who  deceive  the  poor  people,  and  "are  cruel 
beyond  all  cruelty,  not  freeing  souls  for  charity,  though  they  do 
for  money.'" 

In  this  commentary  can  first  be  seen  how  far  Luther  is  from 
the  doctrine  taught  him  by  his  professors  Trutvetter  and  Usin- 
gen,  the  old  philosophy  of  Aristotle  and  the  schoolmen.  Of 
them  he  says :  — 

Wherefore  it  is  mere  madness  for  them  to  say  that  a  man  of  his 
own  powers  is  able  to  love  God  above  all  things  and  to  do  the  works 
of  the  law  in  substance,  if  not  literally,  without  grace.  Fools  !  Theo- 
logians for  swine !  According  to  them  grace  would  not  be  necessary 
save  for  a  new  requirement  above  the  law.  For  if  the  law  is  fulfilled 
by  our  own  powers,  as  they  say,  then  grace  would  not  be  necessary 
for  the  fulfilment  of  the  law,  but  only  for  a  new  exaction  beyond  the 
law.  Who  can  bear  these  sacrilegious  opinions  ? 

It  is  from  this  high  opinion  of  the  function  of  grace  that 
Luther  deduced  the  doctrine  of  determinism,  which  he  carried 
to  the  utmost  lengths  of  logic. 

These  lectures  also  give  a  vivid  idea  of  the  author's  reading 


at  the  time.  The  humanists,  especially  Erasmus,  are  his  favor- 
ites. He  often  quotes,  however,  from  the  Fathers,  either  directly 
or  as  he  had  learned  to  know  them  through  textbooks  and 
compendiums.  Moreover,  he  is  interesting.  Similes,  illustra- 
tions, examples  from  current  events,  apt  translation  into  Ger- 
man, with  careful  summaries  at  the  end  of  each  subject,  made 
the  lectures  a  wide  departure  from  the  ordinary.  The  students 
flocked, to  them  with  enthusiasm. 

Luther's  work  at  the  university  was  so  successful  that  within 
a  few  years  he  was  able  to  carry  through  a  complete  reform  of 
the  whole  curriculum.  The  bondage  of  the  old-fashioned  pro- 
fessors to  Aristotle  has  already  been  described  in  connection 
with  Martin's  education  at  Erfurt.  The  humanists,  eager  for 
the  cultivation  of  the  classics,  rebelled  against  the  reign  of  the 
Stagirite,  and  had  been  partly  successful  in  dethroning  him. 
Luther  was  in  thorough  sympathy  with  them,  but  his  motive 
was  different ;  he  objected  to  the  study  of  that  u  cursed  heathen  * 
(verdammter  Heide),  because  his  ethics  were  not  Christian  and 
his  philosophy  not  Pauline.  This  dislike,  noticeable  as  early  as 
1510,  grew  until,  on  September  4,  1517,  Luther  published 
ninety-seven  theses  calling  into  question  the  value  of  Aristotle's 
works  as  textbooks.  Every  one  is  familiar  with  the  Ninety-five 
Theses  against  indulgences  published  the  following  month,  but 
only  specialists  know  of  this  Disputation  against  Scholastic 
Theology.  And  yet  Luther,  who  did  not  think  the  theses  on/ 
indulgences  worth  publishing,  printed  this  protest  against  Aris- 
totle and  his  followers,  and  sent  it  around  to  numerous  friends 
for  opinions.  Among  the  theses  the  forty-first  calls  Aristotle's 
Ethics  bad  and  inimical  to  grace,  the  fifty-first  expresses  the 
well-founded  suspicion  that  the  Latin  translations  used  in  the 
university  do  not  give  his  exact  sense,  and  the  fifty- second 
states  that  it  would  be  a  good  thing  if  he  who  first  started  the 
question  of  nominalism  and  realism  had  never  been  born. 
Luther  was  especially  anxious  to  have  his  opinions  known  to 
his  old  professors  at  Erfurt,  who  were  strong  adherents  of  the 
Greek  philosopher,  and  accordingly  sent  the  theses  with  this 



Wittenberg,  February  8,  1517. 
Greeting.  I  enclose  a  letter,  dear  Father,  for  the  excellent  Trut- 
vetter,  containing  propositions  directed  against  logic,  philosophy,  and 
theology,  i.  e.,  slander  and  malediction  of  Aristotle,  Porphyry,1  and 
the  Sentences,  the  wretched  studies  of  our  age.  The  men  who  interpret 
them  are  bound  to  keep  silence,  not  for  five  years,  as  did  the  Pythago- 
reans, but  for  ever  and  ever,  like  the  dead  ; 2  they  must  believe  all, 
obey  always ;  nor  may  they  ever,  even  for  practice  in  argument,  skir- 
mish with  their  master,  nor  mutter  a  syllable  against  him.  What  will 
they  not  believe  who  have  credited  that  ridiculous  and  injurious 
blasphemer  Aristotle  ?  His  propositions  are  so  absurd  that  an  ass  or 
a  stone  would  cry  out  at  them.  .  .  .  My  soul  longs  for  nothing  so 
ardently  as  to  expose  and  publicly  shame  that  Greek  buffoon,  who  like 
a  spectre  has  befooled  the  Church.  ...  If  Aristotle  had  not  lived  in 
the  flesh  I  should  not  hesitate  to  call  him  a  devil.  The  greatest  part  of 
my  cross  is  to  be  forced  to  see  brothers  with  brilliant  minds,  born  for 
useful  studies,  compelled  to  spend  their  lives  and  waste  their  labor  in 
these  follies.  The  universities  do  not  cease  to  condemn  good  books  and 
publish  bad  ones,  or  rather  talk  in  their  sleep  about  those  already 
published.  .  .  . 

Brother  Martin  Luther,  Augustinian. 

The  professor's  efforts  to  rid  his  own  university  of  Aristotle 
were  completely  successful,  as  on  May  18,  1517,  he  wrote 
Lang :  — 

Our  theology  and  St.  Augustine  prosper  and  reign  here,  by  God's 
help.  Aristotle  is  gradually  tottering  to  a  fall  from  which  he  will 
hardly  rise  again,  and  the  lectures  on  the  Sentences  are  wonderfully 
disrelished.  No  professor  can  hope  for  students  unless  he  offers  courses 
in  the  new  theology,  that  is  on  the  Bible  or  St.  Augustine  or  some  other 
ecclesiastical  authority. 

While  teaching,  Luther  continued  his  own  studies.  Hebrew 
he  had  already  begun  to  learn  at  Erfurt,  with  the  help  of 

1  Porphyry,  born  233  A.D.,  started  the  debate  on  the  reality  of  individuals  and 
species  which  divided  the  Middle  Ages.  Cf.  p.  6. 

2  An  oath  never  to  contradict  Aristotle  was  actually  administered  in  the  Italian 
universities.  P.  Monnier:  Le  Quattrocento  (Paris,  1908),  ii,  76. 


Reuchlin's  new  grammar-dictionary.  There  were  no  courses  in 
Greek  at  either  Erfurt  or  Wittenberg,  but  he  began  to  study- 
it  under  the  private  tuition  of  his  friend  Lang,  who  taught  at 
Wittenberg  for  three  years  from  1513  to  1516.  Besides  these 
linguistic  pursuits  he  continued  his  reading  in  mediaeval  theo- 
logians, —  Bernard  of  Clairvaux,  Bonaventura,  Gerson,  and 
Gerhard  Zerbolt  of  Ziitphen. 

Toward  the  end  of  1515  or  early  in  1516  he  became  ac- 
quainted with  a  school  of  German  mystics  which  had  an  import- 
ant influence  on  his  development.  The  leader  of  this  movement 
had  been  Tauler,  whose  sermons,  in  an  edition  of  1508,  Luther 
bought  and  annotated  in  his  own  careful  way.  He  was  still  more 
impressed  by  a  manuscript  of  one  of  this  school  known  as  "  the 
Frankfurter,"  a  work  to  which  the  young  professor  gave  the 
name  of  "  A  German  Theology,"  when  he  edited  it  in  an  incom- 
plete form  in  1516  (his  first  publication)  and  fully  in  1518.  In 
the  preface  he  says  there  is  no  better  book,  after  the  Bible  and 
Augustine,  and  none  in  which  one  may  better  learn  the  nature 
of  "  God,  Christ,  man,  and  all  things."  He  warns  the  reader  not 
to  be  repelled  by  the  archaic  German,  and  the  influence  of  this 
rough,  but  pure  old  speech,  has  been  noted  on  his  own  style. 

What  attracted  Luther  to  the  mystics  was  their  doctrine  of 
the  necessity  of  a  spiritual  rebirth  of  anguish  and  despair  before 
a  man  could  approach  the  felicity  of  union  with  God.  Just  as 
Christ  had  gone  through  pain  to  blessedness,  so,  they  taught, 
man  must  experience  woe  before  he  can  appreciate  happiness. 
A  person  who  seeks  God  with  all  his  heart  is  left  by  him  for  a 
time  in  doubt  and  distraction,  that  God  may  thereby  teach  him 
his  absolute  dependence  on  him.  This  was  balm  to  the  soul  of 
one  who  had  been  at  a  loss  to  explain  the  long  period  of  suffer- 
ing through  which  he  had  just  come ;  now  he  felt  sure  that  he 
had  not  gone  astray,  but  that  even  in  prqfundis  God  had  loved 
and  watched  over  him. 

The  young  professor's  work  was  not  confined  to  the  class- 
room. Soon  after  his  transfer  to  Wittenberg  he  began  to  preach, 
at  first  to  the  brothers  in  the  convent,  and  then  in  the  tiny,  barn- 
like chapel  at  that  time  standing  near  the  cloister.  He  was  at 
first  very  timid  about  it,  but  gradually  developed  a  wonderful 


homiletic  gift.  Even  his  earliest  addresses  are  full  of  fresh 
earnestness  and  have  some  touches  of  uncommon  power.  The 
first  extant  sermon,  probably  preached  on  Whitsunday,  1514, 
takes  the  text  from  the  golden  rule  (Matthew  vii,  12).  The 
preacher  begins  by  classifying  goods  as  wholly  external,  —  such 
as  money,  houses,  and  wives;  partly  external  and  partly  in- 
ternal, —  health  and  beauty ;  and  wholly  internal,  —  wisdom, 
virtue,  charity,  and  faith.  He  then  shows  how  a  man  may  help 
or  hurt  his  neighbor  in  any  of  these  goods.  He  asks  if  it  is 
enough  to  abstain  from  hurting  our  fellow  men,  and  answers  by 
inquiring  if  we  should  be  satisfied  if  all  that  they  ever  did  for 
us  was  to  let  us  alone.  We  must  give  to  others,  teach  them, 
incite  them,  and  help  them  to  do  right  even  as  we  want  them  to 
do  unto  us.  Christ  judged  the  wicked  servant,  not  for  wasting 
his  talent,  but  for  letting  it  lie  idle  ;  he  condemned  the  persons 
at  his  tribunal,  not  for  despoiling  him,  but  because  when  he 
was  hungry  they  gave  him  no  meat.  Thus  it  will  be  with  us  if 
we  do  not  help  each  other  to  the  utmost  of  our  ability. 

So  I  might  go  on  with  other  sermons,  and  show  how  simple, 
direct,  interesting,  moral,  and  saintly  they  are.  They  reveal  the 
heart  of  young  Luther  striving  with  all  his  might  to  be  the  best 
and  do  the  best  that  was  in  him.  What  flashes  of  revelation  there 
are  now  and  then,  as  in  the  comment  on  John  iii,  16  (God  so 
loved  the  world  that  he  gave  his  only  begotten  Son)  —  "  There 
is  a  wonderful  emphasis  and  propriety  in  these  words,  as  is  the 
wont  of  the  Holy  Spirit !  " 

In  both  sermons  and  lectures  many  a  trenchant  word  against 
spiritual  wickedness  in  high  places  remind  one  that  the  monk 
was  already  a  reformer.  Many  of  the  abuses  he  later  attacked 
are  scored  or  glanced  at  in  these  early  years.  He  says,  for 
example,  that  the  Canon  Law  needs  a  thorough  cleansing ;  he 
speaks  against  fasts,  ceremonies,  and  pilgrimages.  He  criticizes 
the  hardness  and  tyranny  of  the  princes,  the  coarseness  of  the 
priests,  the  arrogance  of  the  monks,  the  ignorance  of  indulgence- 
preachers,  the  superstition  of  religious  foundations,  the  laziness 
of  workmen,  and  the  irreligion  and  greed  of  lawyers.  Sometimes 
he  rebukes  by  name  or  clearly  indicates  persons  in  high  stations, 
among  them  the  late  Pope  Julius  II,  the  Bishop  of  Strassburg, 


Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony,  and  his  own  sovereign,  the 

Of  more  than  common  interest,  as  showing  Luther's  general 
attitude  toward  the  Church,  is  his  opinion  on  a  cause  celebre  of 
that  day,  the  trial  for  heresy  of  John  Reuchlin.  This  learned 
man's  refusal  to  participate  in  the  scheme  of  a  converted  Jew 
to  burn  all  Hebrew  books  except  the  Old  Testament  was  made 
the  ground  of  an  action  against  him  by  the  Dominicans  of  Co- 
logne, among  whom  the  most  conspicuous  was  Hochstratten, 
aided  by  the  humanist  Ortuin  Gratius.  The  trial,  which  lasted 
from  1510  to  1516,  excited  the  interest  of  the  whole  of  Europe. 
The  monks  and  obscurantists  sided  with  the  inquisitors,  the 
humanists,  all  but  Ortuin,  with  Reuchlin.  The  contest  was  car- 
ried on  by  a  hundred  pens,  and  gave  rise  to  a  great  satire 
—  the  Epistles  of  Obscure  Men.  This  work,  most  of  which 
was  written  by  Crotus  Rubeanus,  in  the  form  of  a  series  of  letters 
addressed  to  Ortuin  Gratius  by  poor  monks,  ridicules  the  bad 
Latin,  ignorance,  gullibility,  and  superstition  of  the  theologians. 

Luther,  though  a  monk,  sided  with  the  progressive  party 
against  the  inquisitors.  His  letters  on  the  subject  are  written  to 
a  man  who  was,  throughout  life,  one  of  his  best  friends,  George 
Burkhardt  of  Spalt.  Spalatin,  as  he  was  always  called,  was  of  the 
same  age  as  his  friend,  whom  he  probably  came  to  know  first 
in  1512,  when  he  was  tutor  to  some  young  princes  at  Wittenberg. 
About  1514  he  was  appointed  chaplain  and  private  secretary  to 
Frederic  the  Wise,  after  which  he  was  rarely  at  Wittenberg. 
Of  the  voluminous  correspondence  of  the  two  friends  about  four 
hundred  and  fifty  of  Luther's  letters  to  him  have  survived. 
Among  the  first  of  these  are  two  on  the  Reuchlin  trial :  — 


Wittenberg  (February,  1514). 
Peace  be  with  you,  reverend  Spalatin !  Brother  John  Lang  has 
asked  me  what  I  think  of  the  innocent  and  learned  Reuchlin  and 
whether  he  is,  as  his  prosecutors  of  Cologne  allege,  in  danger  of 
heresy.  You  know  that  I  greatly  esteem  and  like  the  man,  and  per- 
haps my  judgment  will  therefore  be  suspected,  bat  my  opinion  is  that 
in  all  his  writings  there  is  absolutely  nothing  dangerous. 


I  greatly  wonder  at  the  men  of  Cologne  ferreting  out  such  an  ob- 
scure point,  worse  tangled  than  the  Gordian  knot,  though  the  case  is 
really  as  plain  as  day.  .  .  .  What  shall  I  say  ?  That  they  are  trying 
to  cast  out  Beelzebub  but  not  by  the  finger  of  God.  I  often  regret  and 
deplore  that  we  Christians  are  wise  abroad  and  fools  at  home.  A 
hundred  times  worse  blasphemies  than  this  exist  in  the  very  streets  of 
Jerusalem,  and  the  high  places  are  filled  with  spiritual  idols.  We 
ought  to  show  our  superabundant  zeal  in  removing  these  offences, 
which  are  our  real,  intestine  enemies,  instead  of  abandoning  all  that  is 
really  urgent  and  turning  to  foreign  matters,  under  the  inspiration  of 
the  devil,  who  intends  that  we  shall  neglect  our  own  business  without 
helping  others.  .  .  . 

Your  brother, 

Martin  Luther. 


Wittenberg,  August  5,  1514. 

Greeting.  Hitherto,  most  learned  Spalatin,  I  considered  that  poet- 
aster of  Cologne,  Ortuin  Gratius,  simply  an  ass.  But  you  see  he  has 
turned  out  a  dog,  or  rather  a  ravening  wolf  in  sheep's  clothing,  if  not 
indeed  a  crocodile,  as  you  quite  properly  suggest.  I  really  believe  he 
has  felt  his  own  asininity  (if  you  allow  the  word)  since  our  Reuchlin 
has  pointed  it  out,  but  that  he  thinks  he  can  shake  it  off  and  put 
on  the  lion's  majesty.  The  change  is  too  much  for  him  ;  presto  !  he 
remains  a  wolf  or  crocodile,  for  to  turn  into  a  lion  is  beyond  his 

Good  Heavens  !  How  can  I  express  my  feelings  ?  From  the  ex-, 
ample  of  this  fellow  alone  we  may  form  the  truest,  sanest,  and  justest 
estimate  possible  of  all  who  have  ever  written  or  now  write,  or  will 
write  from  envy.  The  most  insane  of  all  passions  is  that  envy  which 
ardently  desires  to  hurt  but  has  not  the  power.  .  .  . 

This  little  Ortuin  gets  together  a  lot  of  ridiculous,  contradictory, 
painful,  pitiful  propositions,  twisting  the  words  and  meaning  of  in- 
nocent Reuchlin,  only  to  increase  the  penalty  of  his  own  blindness  and 
obstinacy  of  heart.  .  •  . 

In  addition  to  preaching  and  teaching,  Luther  had  numerous 
duties  connected  with  his  order,  in  which  he  was  rapidly  rising 
to  a  leading  position.  In  May,  1515,  he  was  elected  vicar  of 
the  district,  a  responsible  position  involving  the  superintend- 
ence of  eleven  cloisters.   How  seriously  he  took  his  duties  is 


shown  by  his  letters  to  priors  of  monasteries  under  his  charge. 
Two  of  them  especially  reveal  the  writer's  deep  spiritual  life 
at  the  time  when  he  was  most  under  the  influence  Of  the  mys- 
tics. The  first  is  conceived  in  the  spirit  of  Paul's  epistle  to 


Dresden,  May  1,  1516. 

Greeting  in  the  Lord  !  Reverend  and  excellent  Father  Prior !  —  I 
am  grieved  to  learn  that  there  is  with  your  Reverence  one  of  my 
brothers,  a  certain  George  Baumgartner,  of  our  convent  at  Dresden, 
and  that,  alas !  he  sought  refuge  with  you  in  a  shameful  manner,  and 
for  a  shameful  cause.  I  thank  your  faith  and  duty  for  receiving  him 
and  thus  bringing  his  shame  to  an  end.  That  lost  sheep  is  mine,  he 
belongs  to  me  ;  it  is  mine  to  seek  him,  and,  if  it  please  the  Lord  Jesus, 
to  bring  him  back.  Wherefore  I  pray  your  Reverence,  by  our  com- 
mon faith  in  Christ  and  by  our  common  Augustinian  vow,  to  send 
him  to  me  in  dutiful  charity  either  at  Dresden  or  at  Wittenberg,  or 
rather  to  persuade  him  lovingly  and  gently  to  come  of  his  own  ac- 
cord. I  shall  receive  him  with  open  arms ;  only  let  him  come ;  he  has 
no  cause  to  fear  my  displeasure. 

I  know,  I  know  that  scandals  must  arise.  It  is  no  miracle  that 
a  man  should  fall,  but  it  is  a  miracle  that  he  should  rise  and  stand. 
Peter  fell,  that  he  might  know  that  he  was  a  man ;  to-day  the  cedars 
of  Lebanon,  touching  the  sky  with  their  tops,  fall  down.  Wonder  of 
wonders,  even  an  angel  fell  from  heaven  and  man  in  paradise !  What 
wonder  is  it,  then,  that  a  reed  be  shaken  by  the  wind  and  a  smoking 
flax  be  quenched  ?  May  the  Lord  Jesus  teach  you  and  use  you  and 
perfect  you  in  every  good  work.    Amen.    Farewell. 

Brother  Martin  Luther, 
Professor  of  theology  and  Augustinian  Vicar  of  the 
district  of  Meissen  and  Thuringia. 


Wittenberg,  June  22,  1516. 

.  .  .  You  seek  peace  and  ensue  it,  but  in  the  wrong  way,  for  you  look 

to  what  the  world  gives,  not  to  what  Christ  gives.    Know  you  not,  dear 

Father,  that  God  is  so  wonderful  among  his  people  that  he  has  placed 

his  peace  in  the  midst  of  no  peace,  that  is,  in  the  midst  of  all  trial,  as 


he  says :  Rule  thou  in  the  midst  of  thine  enemies  ?  It  is  not  that 
man,  therefore,  whom  no  one  disturbs,  who  has  peace,  —  which  is, 
indeed,  the  peace  of  the  world,  —  but  he  whom  all  men  and  all  things 
harass  and  who  yet  bears  all  quietly  with  joy.  You  say  with  Israel : 
"  Peace,  peace,"  and  there  is  no  peace ;  say  rather  with  Christ,  "Cross, 
cross,"  and  there  is  no  cross.  For  the  cross  ceases  to  be  a  cross 
as  soon  as  you  say  joyfully :  u  Blessed  cross,  there  is  no  tree  like 
you."  .  .  . 

Seek  peace  and  you  will  find  it,  but  seek  only  to  bear  trials  with 
joy  as  if  they  were  holy  relics.  .  .  . 

It  may  be  imagined  that  such  varied  occupations  kept  Luther 
busy.  Of  his  work  he  gives  a  lively  account  in  a  letter  to  his 
recent  colleague  and  instructor  in  Greek :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  October  26,  1516. 

Greeting.  I  need  a  couple  of  amanuenses  or  secretaries,  as  I  do 
almost  nothing  the  live-long  day  but  write  letters.  1  do  not  know 
whether  on  that  account  I  am  always  repeating  myself,  but  you  can 
judge.  I  am  convent  preacher,  the  reader  at  meals,  am  asked  to  de- 
liver a  sermon  daily  in  the  parish  church,  am  district  vicar  (that  is 
eleven  times  prior),  business  manager  of  our  fish-farm  at  Litzkau, 
attorney  in  our  case  versus  the  Herzbergers  now  pending  at  Torgau,1 
lecturer  on  St.  Paul,  assistant  lecturer  on  the  Psalter,  besides  having 
my  correspondence,  which,  as  I  said,  occupies  most  of  my  time.  I 
seldom  have  leisure  to  discharge  the  canonical  services,  to  say  nothing 
of  attending  to  my  own  temptations  with  the  world,  the  flesh  and  the 
devil.    You  see  how  idle  I  am  ! 

I  think  you  must  already  have  my  answer  about  Brother  John 
Metzel,  but  I  will  see  what  I  can  do.  How  in  the  world  do  you  think 
I  can  get  places  for  your  epicures  and  sybarites  ?  If  you  have  brought 
them  up  in  this  pernicious  way  of  life  you  ought  to  support  them  in 
the  same  pernicious  style.  I  have  enough  useless  brothers  on  all  sides 
—  if,  indeed,  any  can  be  called  useless  to  a  patient  soul.  I  have  per- 
suaded myself  that  the  useless  are  the  most  useful  of  all  —  so  you  can 
have  them  a  while  longer.  .  .  . 

You  write  me  that  yesterday  you  began  to  lecture  on  the  second 

♦  l  On  the  incorporation  of  the  parish  church  at  Herzberg  with  the  local  Augus- 
tinian  chapter. 


book  of  Sentences.  I  begin  to-morrow  to  lecture  on  Galatians,  though 
I  fear  the  plague  will  not  allow  me  to  finish  the  course.  The  plague 
takes  off  two  or  at  most  three  in  one  day,  and  that  not  every  day.  A 
son  of  the  smith  who  lives  opposite  was  well  yesterday  and  is  buried 
to-day,  and  another  son  lies  ill.  The  epidemic  began  rather  severely 
and  suddenly  in  the  latter  part  of  the  summer.  You  would  per- 
suade Bernhardi  and  me  to  flee  to  you,  but  shall  I  flee  ?  I  hope  the 
world  will  not  come  to  an  end  when  Brother  Martin  does.  I  shall 
send  the  brothers  away  if  the  plague  gets  worse ;  I  am  stationed  here 
and  may  not  flee  because  of  my  vow  of  obedience,  until  the  same 
authority  which  now  commands  me  to  stay  shall  command  me  to  go. 
Not  that  I  do  not  fear  the  plague  (for  I  am  not  the  Apostle  Paul,  but 
only  a  lecturer  on  him),  but  I  hope  the  Lord  will  deliver  me  from  my 

How  great  is  the  contrast  between  this  letter  and  that  writ- 
ten ten  years  before !  The  shy  boy  has  become  a  man  of  un- 
usual power,  universally  respected  and  trusted.  Indeed,  he  had 
already  attracted  the  notice  of  his  sovereign,  the  Elector  Fred- 
eric. This  prince,  who  enjoyed  a  great  and  deserved  reputa- 
tion for  wisdom,  was  a  pious  man  according  to  mediaeval 
standards.  He  had  made  a  pilgrimage  to  the  Holy  Land,  and 
brought  back  a  large  collection  of  relics  to  which  he  kept  adding 
from  time  to  time.  He  built  the  Castle  Church  at  Wittenberg, 
1493-1499,  to  keep  these  sacred  objects  of  which  by  1505  he 
had  accumulated  5005,  graced  with  enormous  indulgences, 
reckoned,  according  to  the  scale  of  measurement  adopted,  as 
equivalent  to  1443  years  of  purgatory.  In  addition  to  this  pro- 
vision for  his  future  life,  Frederic  had  ten  thousand  masses  said 
yearly  in  Saxon  churches  for  the  benefit  of  his  soul. 

Luther  had  now  come  to  regard  such  things  as  superfluous 
and  wrong,  and  consequently  judged  his  sovereign  severely  for 
superstition,  as  is  shown  in  the  next  letter  written  to  answer 
Spalatin's  request  for  his  advice  about  the  proposed  appoint- 
ment of  Staupitz  to  a  bishopric :  — 


Wittenberg,  June  8,  1516. 
.  .  .  .  I  by  no  means  wish  that  the  reverend  father  should  receive  the 
appointment  simply  because  it  pleases  the  Elector  to  give  it  him.  Many 


things  please  your  elector,  and  appear  glorious  in  his  eyes,  which  dis- 
please God  and  are  base.  I  do  not  deny  that  the  Prince  is  of  all  most 
wise  in  worldly  matters,  but  in  those  which  pertain  to  God  and  salva- 
tion I  think  he  is  seven  times  blind,  as  is  your  friend  Pf effinger.1  I  do 
not  say  this  privily  as  a  slanderer,  nor  do  I  wish  that  you  should  in 
any  way  conceal  it ;  when  the  opportunity  comes  I  am  ready  to  say  it 
to  both  of  them. 

Dear  Spalatin,  these  are  not  such  happy  times  that  it  is  blessed,  or 
even  not  most  miserable  to  be  a  bishop  —  that  is  to  carouse  and  prac- 
tise the  vices  of  Sodom  and  Rome.  You  will  clearly  understand  this 
if  you  compare  the  bishops  of  our  age  with  those  of  ancient  times. 
The  best  of  modern  prelates  wage  foreign  wars  with  all  the  power  of 
artillery,  or  build  up  their  private  fortunes,  a  hell  of  avarice.  And  al- 
though Staupitz  is  most  averse  from  such  wickedness,  yet  would  you, 
with  your  confidence  in  him,  force  him  to  become  involved  in  the 
whirlpools  and  racking  tempests  of  episcopal  cares,  when  chance,  or 
rather  fate,  urges  him  on  any  way  ?  .  .  . 

Staupitz  did  not  get  the  appointment,  and  about  a  year  later 
fell  into  such  disfavor  with  his  sovereign  that  Luther  had  to 
intercede  for  him.  The  letter  in  which  he  does  so  has  an  uncom- 
mon interest  as  indicating  how  free  the  Wittenberg  professor 
felt  to  remonstrate  with  his  prince  on  matters  of  state  :  — • 


Wittenberg,  November,  1517. 

Most  gracious  Lord  and  Prince  !  As  your  Grace  promised  me  a 
gown  some  time  ago,  I  beg  to  remind  your  Grace  of  the  same.  Please 
let  Pf  effinger  settle  it  with  a  deed  and  not  with  promises  —  he  can 
spin  mighty  good  yarns  but  no  cloth  comes  from  them. 

I  have  learned  that  your  Grace  is  offended  at  Dr.  Staupitz,  our 
dear  and  worthy  father,  for  some  reason  or  other.  When  he  was  here 
on  the  way  to  see  your  Grace  at  Torgau,  I  talked  with  him  and  showed 
him  that  I  was  sorry  your  Grace  should  take  umbrage,  and  after  a 
long  conversation  could  only  find  that  he  held  your  Grace  in  his  heart. 
.  .  .  Wherefore,  most  gracious  Lord,  I  beg  you,  as  he  several  times 
asked  me  to  do,  that  you  would  consider  all  the  love  and  loyalty  you 
have  so  often  found  in  him. 

My  gracious  Lord,  let  me  now  show  my  devotion  to  you  and  deserve 

1  State  treasurer  and  receiver-general  of  taxes. 


my  new  gown.  I  have  heard  that  at  the  expiration  of  the  present  im- 
post your  Grace  intends  to  collect  another  and  perhaps  a  heavier  one. 
If  you  will  not  despise  the  prayer  of  a  poor  beggar,  I  ask  you  for 
God's  sake  not  to  do  this.  For  it  heartily  distresses  me  and  many  who 
love  you,  that  this  tax  has  of  late  robbed  you  of  much  good  fame  and 
favor.  God  has  blessed  you  with  high  intelligence  in  these  matters,  to 
see  further  than  I  or  perhaps  any  of  your  subjects,  but  it  may  well  be 
that  God  ordains  it  so  that  at  times  a  great  mind  may  be  directed  by 
a  lesser  one,  so  that  no  one  may  trust  himself  but  only  God  our  Lord. 
May  he  keep  your  Grace  in  health  to  govern  us  well  and  afterwards 
may  he  grant  your  soul  salvation.  Amen. 

Your  Grace's  obedient  chaplain, 

Da.  Mabtin  Luther. 



Notwithstanding  Luther's  severe  criticism  of  the  Elector 
for  venerating  relics,  and  notwithstanding  his  despondent  esti- 
mate of  spiritual  wickedness  in  high  places,  he  was,  as  yet,  a 
true  son  of  the  Church.  In  attacking  a  flagrant  ecclesiastical 
abuse,  the  indulgence  trade,  he  did  not  intend  to  raise  the 
standard  of  revolt,  nor  did  he  do  so  until  forced,  gradually  if 
rapidly,  by  the  authorities  of  the  Church  herself,  into  irrecon- 
cilable opposition.  In  order  to  understand  his  protest  against 
indulgences,  it  is  necessary  to  glance  at  the  history  of  this 

According  to  the  theory  of  the  Roman  Catholic  Church,  for- 
giveness is  imparted  to  sinners  in  absolution  after  confession, 
by  which  the  penitent  is  freed  from  guilt  and  eternal  punish- 
ment in  hell,  but  still  remains  liable  to  a  milder  punishment  to 
be  undergone  in  this  life  as  penance,  or  in  purgatory.  The  prac- 
tice had  arisen  in  the  early  Church  of  commuting  this  penance 
(not  the  pains  of  purgatory)  in  consideration  of  a  good  work 
such  as  a  pilgrimage  or  a  contribution  to  pious  purpose.  This 
was  the  seed  of  the  indulgence  which  would  never  have  grown 
to  its  later  enormous  proportions  had  it  not  been  for  the  cru- 
sades. Mohammed  promised  his  followers  paradise  if  they  fell  in 
battle  against  unbelievers,  but  Christian  warriors  were  at  first 
without  this  comforting  assurance.  Their  faith  was  not  long  left 
in  doubt,  however,  for  as  early  as  855  Leo  IV  promised  heaven 
to  the  Franks  who  died  fighting  the  Moslems.  A  quarter  of  a 
century  later  John  VIII  proclaimed  absolution  for  all  sins  and 
remission  of  all  penalties  to  soldiers  in  the  holy  war,  and  from 
this  time  on  the  "  crusade  indulgence  "  became  a  regular  means 
of  recruiting,  used,  for  example,  by  Leo  IX  in  1052  and  by 
Urban  II  in  1095.  By  this  time  the  practice  had  grown  up  of 
regarding  an  indulgence  as  a  remission  not  only  of  penance 


but  of  the  pains  of  purgatory.  The  means  which  had  proved 
successful  in  getting  soldiers  for  the  crusade  were  first  used  in 
1145  or  1146  to  get  money  for  the  same  end  —  pardon  being 
assured  to  those  who  gave  enough  to  fit  out  one  soldier  on  the 
same  terms  as  if  they  had  gone  themselves. 

When  the  crusades  ceased,  in  the  thirteenth  century,  in- 
dulgences did  not  fall  into  desuetude.  At  the  jubilee  of  Pope 
Boniface  VIII  in  1300  a  plenary  indulgence  was  granted  to  all 
who  made  a  pilgrimage  to  Rome.  The  Pope  reaped  such  an 
enormous  harvest  from  the  gifts  of  these  pilgrims  that  he  saw 
fit  to  employ  similar  means  at  frequent  intervals,  and  soon  ex- 
tended the  same  privileges  as  were  granted  to  pilgrims  to  all 
who  contributed  for  some  pious  purpose  at  their  own  homes. 
Agents  were  sent  out  to  sell  these  pardons,  and  were  given 
power  to  confess  and  absolve,  so  that  by  1393  Boniface  IX  was 
able  to  announce  complete  remission  of  both  guilt  and  penalty 
to  the  purchasers  of  his  letters. 

Having  assumed  the  right  to  free  living  men  from  future 
punishment,  it  was  but  a  step  for  the  popes  to  proclaim  that  they 
had  the  power  to  deliver  the  souls  of  the  dead  from  purgatory. 
The  existence  of  this  power  was  an  open  question  until  decided 
by  Calixtus  III  in  1457,  but  full  use  of  the  faculty  was  not 
made  until  twenty  years  later,  after  which  it  became  of  all 
branches  of  the  indulgence  trade  the  most  profitable. 

The  practice  of  the  Church  had  become  well  established 
before  a  theory  was  framed  to  justify  it.  This  was  done  most 
successfully  by  Alexander  of  Hales  in  the  thirteenth  century, 
who  discovered  the  treasury  of  the  Church  (thesaurus  meritorum 
or  thesaurus  indulgentiarum)  consisting  of  the  merits  of  Christ 
and  the  saints  which  the  Pope,  as  head  of  the  Church,  could 
apply  as  a  sort  of  a  credit  to  whom  he  chose.  This  doctrine,  so 
far  as  it  applied  to  living  men,  received  the  sanction  of  Clem- 
ent VI  in  1343  and  became  a  part  of  the  Canon  Law,  but  the 
popes  usually  claimed  to  free  the  souls  of  the  dead  from  purga- 
tory simply  by  prayer.  The  mere  dictum  of  the  Supreme 
Pontiff  did  not  at  that  time  absolutely  establish  a  dogma.  A 
powerful  party  in  the  Church  held  that  a  council  was  the  su- 
preme authority  in  matters  of  faith,  and  it  will  be  remembered 


that  the  infallibility  of  the  Pope  was  not  made  a  dogma  until 
1870.  Luther  was  therefore  not  accused  of  heresy  for  his  asser- 
tions regarding  indulgences  for  the  dead. 

It  was  not  so  much  the  theory  of  the  Church  that  excited  his 
indignation  as  it  was  the  practices  of  some  of  her  agents.  They 
encouraged  the  common  man  to  believe  that  the  purchase  of 
a  papal  pardon  would  assure  him  impunity  without  any  real  re- 
pentance on  his  part.  Moreover,  whatever  the  theoretical  worth 
of  indulgences,  the  motive  of  their  sale  was  notoriously  the 
greed  of  unscrupulous  ecclesiastics.  The  "holy  trade"  as  it  was 
called  had  become  so  thoroughly  commercialized  by  1500  that 
a  banking  house,  the  Fuggers  of  Augsburg,  were  the  direct 
agents  of  the  Curia  in  Germany.  In  return  for  their  services  in 
forwarding  the  Pope's  bulls,  and  in  hiring  sellers  of  pardons, 
this  wealthy  house  made  a  secret  agreement  in  1507  by  which 
it  received  one  third  of  the  total  profits  of  the  trade,  and  in  1514 
formally  took  over  the  whole  management  of  the  business  in 
return  for  the  modest  commission  of  one  half  the  net  receipts. 
Naturally  not  a  word  was  said  by  the  preachers  to  the  people 
as  to  the  destination  of  so  large  a  portion  of  their  money,  but 
enough  was  known  to  make  many  men  regard  indulgences  as  an 
open  scandal. 

The  history  of  the  particular  trade  attacked  by  Luther  is  one 
of  special  infamy.  Albert  of  Brandenburg,  a  prince  of  the  en- 
terprising house  of  Hohenzollern,  was  bred  to  the  Church  and 
rapidly  rose  by  political  influence  to1  the  highest  ecclesiastical 
position  in  Germany.  In  1513  he  was  elected,  at  the  age  of 
twenty-three,  Archbishop  of  Magdeburg  and  administrator  of 
the  bishopric  of  Halberstadt,  —  an  uncanonical  accumulation 
of  sees  confirmed  by  the  Pope  in  return  for  a  large  payment. 
Hardly  had  Albert  paid  this  before  he  was  elected  Archbishop 
and  Elector  of  Mayence  and  Primate  of  Germany  (March  9, 
1514).  Ashe  was  not  yet  of  canonical  age  to  possess  even  one 
bishopric,  not  to  mention  three  of  the  -greatest  in  the  Empire, 
the  Pope  refused  to  confirm  his  nomination  except  for  an 
enormous  sum.  The  Curia  at  first  demanded  twelve  thousand 
ducats  for  the  twelve  apostles,  Albert  offered  seven  for  the  seven 
deadly  sins.  The  average  between  apostles  and  sins  was  struck 


at  ten  thousand  ducats,  or  fifty  thousand  dollars,  a  sum  equal 
in  purchasing  power  to  near  a  million  to-day.  Albert  borrowed 
this,  too,  from  the  Fuggers,  and  was  accordingly  confirmed  on 
August  15, 1514. 

In  order  to  allow  the  new  prelate  to  recoup  himself,  Leo 
obligingly  declared  an  indulgence  for  the  benefit  of  St.  Peter's 
Church,  to  run  eight  years  from  March  31, 1515.  By  this  trans- 
action, one  of  the  most  disgraceful  in  the  history  of  the  papacy, 
as  well  as  in  that  of  the  house  of  Brandenburg,  the  Curia  made 
a  vast  sum.  Albert  did  not  come  off  so  well.  First,  a  number  of 
princes,  including  the  rulers  of  both  Saxony s,  forbade  the  trade 
in  their  dominions,  and  the  profits  of  what  remained  were  deeply 
cut  by  the  unexpected  attack  of  a  young  monk. 

Albert  did  his  best  to  put  his  holy  wares  in  the  most  attract- 
ive light.  A  short  quotation  from  his  public  advertisement  will 
substantiate  what  has  just  been  said  about  the  popular  repre- 
sentation of  the  indulgence  as  an  easy  road  to  atonement :  — 

"  The  first  grace  is  a  plenary  remission  of  all  sins,  than  which  one 
might  say  no  grace  could  be  greater,  because  a  sinner  deprived  of 
grace  through  it  achieves  perfect  remission  of  sin  and  the  grace  of  God 
anew.  By  which  grace  .  .  .  the  pains  of  purgatory  are  completely 
wiped  out."  The  second  grace  for  sale  is  a  confessional  letter  allowing 
the  penitent  to  choose  his  own  confessor ;  the  third  is  the  participation 
in  the  merits  of  the  saints.  The  fourth  grace  is  for  the  souls  in  purga- 
tory, a  plenary  remission  of  all  sins.  .  .  .  Nor  is  it  necessary  for  those 
who  contribute  to  the  fund  for  this  purpose  to  be  contrite  or  to  con- 

Albert's  principal  agent  was  a  certain  Dominican  named 
Tetzel,  a  bold,  popular  preacher  already  expert  in  the  business. 
He  did  all  in  his  power  to  impress  the  people  with  the  value  of 
his  commodities.  When  he  entered  a  town,  there  was  a  solemn 
procession,  bells  were  rung,  and  everything  possible  done  to 
attract  attention.  Some  of  his  sermons  have  survived,  painting 
in  the  most  lively  colors  the  agonies  of  purgatory  and  the  ease 
with  which  any  one  might  free  himself  or  his  dead  relatives 
from  the  torturing  flames  by  the  simple  payment  of  a  gulden. 

Though  forbidden  to  enter  Saxony,  Tetzel  approached  suf- 
ficiently near  her  borders  to  attract  a  number  of  her  people.  In 


January,  1517,  he  was  at  Eisleben,  and  in  the  spring  came  to 
Jiiterbog,  so  near  Wittenberg  that  Luther  could  see  the  bad 
effects  of  indulgences  in  his  own  parish.  After  preaching  against 
the  abuse  several  times  in  1516  and  1517,  the  earnest  monk 
finally  decided  to  bring  matters  to  a  head  by  holding  a  debate 
on  the  subject.  He  announced  his  intention  in  a  rather  dramatic 
way.  On  the  Feast  of  All  Saints  (November  1),  the  Elector's 
relics  kept  in  the  Castle  Church  were  solemnly  displayed  and 
the  special  graces  attached  to  them  publicly  announced.  This 
festival  drew  crowds  to  Wittenberg,  both  from  curiosity  and 
from  desire  to  participate  in  the  spiritual  benefits  then  obtain- 
able. It  was  to  give  notice  to  these  people  that  on  October  31, 
1517,  Martin  Luther  posted  up  on  the  door  of  the  church  an 
announcement  of  his  intention  to  hold  a  debate  on  the  value  of 
indulgences,  "  for  the  love  and  zeal  for  elucidating  the  truth," 
ninety-five  theses  or  heads  for  debate  being  proposed. 

The  Theses  are  a  good  specimen  of  much  of  Luther's  work. 
Their  chief  defect  is  lack  of  perfect  logical  order.  They  evince 
a  tolerably  deep  acquaintance  with  mediaeval  theology,  but  their 
main  interest  is  not  theoretical  but  practical.  Each  proposition 
is  a  blow  at  some  popular  error  or  some  flagrant  abuse.  Though 
occasionally  qualifying,  they  deal  trenchantly  with  the  nature  of 
repentance,  the  power  of  the  Pope  to  release  souls  from  purga- 
tory, the  virtue  of  indulgences  for  living  sinners,  the  outrageous 
practices  of  the  preachers  of  pardons,  the  treasury  of  the  Church, 
and  other  matters. 

The  first  thesis  cannot  be  understood  without  a  slight  know- 
ledge of  Latin.  This  language,  singularly  enough,  has  but  one 
word  (penitentia)  for  the  two  very  distinct  ideas  of  penance 
and  penitence.  Consequently  the  words  of  Christ  translated 
in  the  Vulgate  "  Penitentiam  agite  "  might  equally  well  mean, 
"  Repent  ye,"  or  "  Do  penance."  They  were  taken  in  the  latter 
sense  by  the  average  priest,  but  Erasmus  in  his  Paraphrases  to 
the  New  Testament  had  seen  the  real  significance  of  the  words, 
and  so  had  some  other  doctors  known  to  Luther.  Accordingly, 
in  the  first  two  theses  he  says :  — 

1.  Our  Lord  and  master  Jesus  Christ  in  saying  "  Penitentiam  agite  " 
meant  that  the  whole  life  of  the  faithful  should  be  repentance. 


2.  And  these  words  cannot  refer  to  penance that  is  confession  and 


Among  the  other  propositions  the  following  are  the  most 
important :  — 

5.  The  Pope  does  not  wish,  nor  is  he  able,  to  remit  any  penalty 
except  what  he  or  the  Canon  Law  has  imposed. 

6.  The  Pope  is  not  able  to  remit  guilt  except  by  declaring  it  for- 
given by  God  —  or  in  cases  reserved  to  himself.  .  .  . 

11.  The  erroneous  opinion  that  canonical  penance  and  punishment 
in  purgatory  are  the  same  assuredly  seems  to  be  a  tare  sown  while  the 
bishops  were  asleep. 

21.  Therefore  those  preachers  of  indulgences  err  who  say  that  a 
papal  pardon  frees  a  man  from  all  penalty  and  assures  his  salvation. 

22.  The  greater  part  of  the  people  will  be  deceived  by  this  undis- 
tinguishing  and  pretentious  promise  of  pardon  which  cannot  be  ful- 

26.  The  Pope  does  well  to  say  that  he  frees  souls  from  purgatory 
not  by  the  power  of  the  keys  (for  he  has  no  such  power)  but  by  the 
method  of  prayer. 

28.  It  is  certain  that  avarice  is  fostered  by  the  money  chinking  in 
the  chest,  but  to  answer  the  prayers  of  the  Church  is  in  the  power  of 
God  alone. 

29.  Who  knows  whether  all  the  souls  in  purgatory  want  to  be 
freed?  .  .  . 

30.  None  is  sure  of  the  sincerity  of  his  contrition,  much  less  of  his 
full  pardon. 

31.  They  who  believe  themselves  made  sure  of  salvation  by  papal 
letters  will  be  eternally  damned  along  with  their  teachers. 

33.  One  should  beware  of  them  who  say  that  those  pardons  are  an 
inestimable  gift  of  the  Pope  by  which  man  is  reconciled  to  God. 

36.  Every  Christian  truly  repentant  has  full  remission  of  guilt  and 
penalty  even  without  letters  of  pardon. 

37.  Every  true  Christian,  alive  or  dead,  participates  in  all  the  goods 
of  Christ  and  the  Church  without  letters  of  pardon.  .  .  . 

38.  Nevertheless  papal  pardons  are  not  to  be  despised. 

40.  True  contrition  seeks  and  loves  punishment,  and  makes  relaxa- 
tions of  it  hateful,  at  least  at  times. 

43.  Christians  are  to  be  taught  that  he  who  gives  to  the  poor  or 
lends  to  one  in  need  does  better  than  he  who  buys  indulgences. 

50.  Christians  are  to  be  taught  that  if  the  Pope  knew  the  exactions  of 


the  preachers  of  indulgences  he  would  rather  have  St.  Peter's  church 
in  ashes  than  have  it  built  with  the  flesh  and  bones  of  his  sheep. 

60.  The  treasury  of  the  Church  is  the  power  of  the  keys  given  by 
Christ's  merit. 

62.  The  true  treasure  of  the  Church  is  the  holy  gospel  of  the  glory 
and  grace  of  God. 

71.  Who  speaks  against  the  apostolic  truth  of  indulgences,  let  him 
be  anathema. 

72.  But  who  opposes  the  lust  and  license  of  the  preachers  of  par- 
dons, let  him  be  blessed. 

The  scandalous  practices  of  those  preachers  will  induce  the 
laity  to  ask  inconvenient  questions,  as :  — 

82.  Why  does  not  the  Pope  empty  purgatory  from  charity  ? 

92.  Let  all  those  prophets  depart  who  say  to  the  people  of  Christ, 
Peace,  peace,  where  there  is  no  peace. 

93.  But  all  those  prophets  $o  well  who  say  to  the  people  of  Christ, 
Cross,  cross,  and  there  is  no  cross. 

On  the  same  day  that  he  posted  his  Theses  Luther  wrote  a 
letter  of  remonstrance  to  the  prelate  under  whose  sanction  the 
indulgences  had  appeared,  which  still  further  explains  his 


Wittenberg,  October  31,  1517. 

Grace  and  the  mercy  of  God  and  whatever  else  may  be  and  is ! 

Forgive  me,  Very  Reverend  Father  in  Christ,  and  illustrious  Lord, 
that  I,  the  offscouring  of  men,  have  the  temerity  to  think  of  a  letter 
to  your  high  mightiness.  .  .  . 

Papal  indulgences  for  the  building  of  St.  Peter's  are  hawked  about 
under  your  illustrious  sanction.  I  do  not  now  accuse  the  sermons  of 
the  preachers  who  advertise  them,  for  I  have  not  seen  the  same,  but  I 
regret  that  the  people  have  conceived  about  them  the  most  erroneous 
ideas.  Forsooth  these  unhappy  souls  believe  that  if  they  buy  letters  of 
pardon  they  are  sure  of  their  salvation ;  likewise  that  souls  fly  out 
of  purgatory  as  soon  as  money  is  cast  into  the  chest ;  in  short,  that  the 
grace  conferred  is  so  great  that  there  is  no  sin  whatever  which  cannot 
be  absolved  thereby,  even  if,  as  they  say,  taking  an  impossible  example, 
a  man  should  violate  the  mother  of  God.  They  also  believe  that  in- 
dulgences free  them  from  all  penalty  and  guilt. 


My  God !  thus  are  the  souls  committed,  Father,  to  your  charge, 
instructed  unto  death,  for  which  you  have  a  fearful  and  growing  reck- 
oning to  pay.  .  .  . 

What  else  could  I  do,  excellent  Bishop  and  illustrious  Prince,  ex- 
cept pray  your  Reverence  for  the  sake  of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  to 
take  away  your  Instructions  to  the  Commissioners  altogether  and  im- 
pose some  other  form  of  preaching  on  the  proclaimers  of  pardons,  lest 
perchance  some  one  should  at  length  arise  and  confute  them  and  their 
Instructions  publicly,  to  the  great  blame  of  your  Highness.  This  I 
vehemently  deprecate,  yet  I  fear  it  may  happen  unless  the  grievance 
is  quickly  redressed.  .  .  . 

Your  unworthy  son, 

Martin  Luther,  Augustinian,  Dr.  Theol. 

On  receipt  of  this  letter,  with  the  Theses  enclosed,  Albert  be- 
gan an  "inhibitory  process  "  against  the  "  presumptuous  monk," 
which  was  soon  dropped  on  account  of  the  action  taken  at  Rome. 
The  archbishop  promptly  sent  an  account  of  the  matter,  with 
several  of  the  Wittenberg  professor's  works,  to  the  Curia. 

The  attack  on  indulgences  was  like  a  match  touched  to  gun- 
powder. Every  one  had  been  thinking  what  Luther  alone  was 
bold  and  clear-sighted  enough  to  say,  and  almost  every  one 
applauded  him  to  the  echo.  Certain  persons  wrote  "exhorting 
him  to  stand  fast  and  congratulating  him  on  what  he  had  done. 
The  Theses  had  an  immediate  and  enormous  popularity.  Luther 
himself  was  astonished  at  their  reception,  and  before  he  knew 
it  they  were  printed  at  Nuremberg  both  in  Latin  and  German. 
The  circle  of  humanists  in  this  wealthy  town  received  them 
warmly,  the  famous  painter,  Albert  Diirer,  sending  the  author 
a  present  of  his  own  wood-cuts  as  a  token  of  appreciation.  These 
were  forwarded  to  him  by  his  friend  Scheurl,  who  enclosed 
copies  of  the  printed  Theses.  The  answer  explains  the  writer's 
position :  — 


Wittenberg,  March  5,  1518. 
Greeting.  I  received  both  your  German  and  Latin  letters,  good  and 
learned  Scheurl,  together  witli  the  distinguished  Albert  Diirer's  gift, 
and  my  Theses  in  the  original  and  in  the  vernacular.  As  you  are  sur- 


prised  that  I  did  not  send  them  to  you,  I  reply  that  my  purpose  was  not 
to  publish  them,  but  first  to  consult  a  few  of  my  neighbors  about  them, 
that  thus  I  might  either  destroy  them  if  condemned  or  edit  them  with 
the  approbation  of  others.  But  now  that  they  are  printed  and  circu- 
lated far  beyond  my  expectation,  I  feel  anxious  about  what  they  may 
bring  forth ;  not  that  I  am  unfavorable  to  spreading  known  truth  abroad 
—  rather  this  is  what  I  seek  —  but  because  this  method  is  not  that  best 
adapted  to  instruct  the  public.  I  have  certain  doubts  about  them  my- 
self, and  should  have  spoken  far  differently  and  more  distinctly  had  I 
known  what  was  going  to  happen.  I  have  learned  from  their  publica- 
tion what  is  the  general  opinion  about  indulgences  entertained  every- 
where by  all,  although  they  conceal  it  "  for  fear  of  the  Jews."  I  have 
felt  it  necessary  to  write  a  defence  of  my  Theses  which  I  have  not  yet 
been  able  to  print  because  my  Lord  Bishop  of  Brandenburg,  to  whom  I 
referred  it,  has  long  kept  me  waiting  for  his  opinion.  If  the  Lord  give 
me  leisure  I  should  like  to  publish  a  work  in  German  on  the  virtue  of 
indulgences  to  supersede  my  desultory  Theses.  For  I  have  no  doubt 
that  people  are  deceived  not  by  indulgences  but  by  the  use  made  of 
them.  .  .  . 

The  defence  of  which  Luther  has  just  spoken  was  returned  to 
him  by  the  Bishop  of  Brandenburg  with  the  advice  not  to  print 
it.  He  did  so,  however,  but  the  slowness  of  the  printers  prevented 
the  appearance  of  the  Kesolutions,  as  the  book  was  called,  until 
September.  In  this  he  takes  up  the  Theses  one  by  one,  explains 
and  supports  them  by  argument  —  in  the  case  of  the  first,  for 
example,  citing  the  Greek  to  prove  his  statement.  He  dedicated 
the  work  to  Pope  Leo  X  in .  a  letter  written  about  the  last  of 
May,  in  which,  while  speaking  as  a  submissive  son  of  the  Church, 
he  shows  his  opinions  have  only  been  confirmed  by  the  attacks 
of  enemies.  The  letter  is  well  adapted  to  the  man  to  whom  it  is 
addressed,  a  humanist,  perhaps  a  freethinker,  who  would  de- 
spise the  writer  more  as  an  uncultured  German  than  condemn 
him  as  a  heretic.  There  is  a  fine  irony  in  the  words  about  the 
wonderful  literary  attainments  of  the  age. 

TO   POPE  LEO  x 

(Wittenberg,  May  30?)  1518. 
I  have  heard  a  very  evil  report  of  myself,  Most  Blessed  Father,  by 
which  I  understand  that  certain  persons  have  made  my  name  loathsome 


to  you  and  yours,  saying  that  I  have  tried  to  diminish  the  power  of  the 
keys  and  the  authority  of  the  Supreme  Pontiff,  and  therefore  accusing 
me  of  being  a  heretic,  an  apostate  and  a  traitor,  besides  branding  me 
with  an  hundred  other  calumnious  epithets.  My  ears  are  horrified  and 
my  eyes  amazed,  but  my  conscience,  sole  bulwark  of  confidence,  re- 
mains innocent  and  at  peace.  .  .  . 

In  these  latter  days  a  jubilee  of  papal  indulgences  began  to  be 
preached,  and  the  preachers,  thinking  everything  allowed  them  under 
the  protection  of  your  name,  dared  to  teach  impiety  and  heresy  openly, 
to  the  grave  scandal  and  mockery  of  ecclesiastical  powers,  totally  dis- 
regarding the  provisions  of  the  Canon  Law  about  the  misconduct  of 
officials.  .  .  .  They  met  with  great  success,  the  people  were  sucked 
dry  on  false  pretences  .  .  .  but  the  oppressors  lived  on  the  fat  and 
sweetness  of  the  land.  They  avoided  scandals  only  by  the  terror  of 
your  name,  the  threat  of  the  stake  and  the  brand  of  heresy  ...  if, 
indeed,  this  can  be  called  avoiding  scandals  and  not  rather  exciting 
schisms  and  revolt  by  crass  tyranny :  .  .  . 

I  privately  warned  some  of  the  dignitaries  of  the  Church.  By  some 
the  admonition  was  well  received,  by  others  ridiculed,  by  others  treated 
in  various  ways,  for  the  terror  of  your  name  and  the  dread  of  censure 
are  strong.  At  length,  when  I  could  do  nothing  else,  I  determined  to 
stop  their  mad  career  if  only  for  a  moment ;  I  resolved  to  call  their 
assertions  in  question.  So  I  published  some  propositions  for  debate, 
inviting  only  the  more  learned  to  discuss  them  with  me,  as  ought  to 
be  plain  to  my  opponents  from  the  preface  to  my  Theses.  Yet  this  is 
the  flame  with  which  they  seek  to  set  the  world  on  fire !  .  .  . 

Now  what  shall  I  do  ?  I  cannot  recall  my  Theses  and  yet  I  see  that 
great  hatred  is  kindled  against  me  by  their  popularity.  I  come  unwill- 
ingly before  the  precarious  and  divided  judgment  of  the  public,  I, 
who  am  untaught,  stupid  and  destitute  of  learning,  before  an  age  so 
fertile  in  literary  genius  that  it  would  force  into  a  corner  even  Cicero, 
no  mean  follower  of  fame  and  popularity  in  his  day. 

So  in  order  to  fulfil  the  desire  of  many  and  appease  my  opponents, 
I  am  now  publishing  a  little  treatise  to  explain  my  Theses.  To  pro- 
tect myself,  I  publish  it  under  the  guardianship  of  your  name  and  the 
shadow  of  your  protection.  .  .  . 

And  now,  Most  Blessed  Father,  I  cast  myself  and  all  my  posses- 
sions at  your  feet ;  raise  me  up  or  slay  me,  summon  me  hither  or 
thither,  approve  me  or  reprove  me  as  you  please.  I  shall  recognize 
your  words  as  the  words  of  Christ,  speaking  in  you.  If  I  have  de- 
served death,  I  shall  not  refuse  to  die.  For  the  earth  is  the  Lord's  and 


the  fulness  thereof ;  blessed  be  he  forever.  Amen.   May  he  always 
preserve  you.  Amen. 

Long  before  this  letter  was  published,  energetic  steps  had 
been  taken  against  Luther  in  Rome.  As  previously  stated,  the 
Archbishop  of  Mayence,  early  in  December,  1517,  had  forwarded 
to  the  Pope  the  monk's  Theses  on  Indulgences,  those  on  schol- 
astic philosophy,  with  other  documents.  Leo  read  the  Theses, 
which  he  judged  clever  though  animated  by  envy.  At  another 
time  he  professed  to  think  they  had  been  composed  by  a  drunken 
German  who  would  see  the  error  of  his  ways  when  sober.  It 
was,  therefore,  with  no  great  apprehension  that  he  ordered 
Gabriel  della  Volta,  General  of  the  Augustinians,  "to  quiet 
that  man,  for  newly  kindled  flames  are  easily  quenched." 

Accordingly  Volta  instructed  Staupitz  to  force  the  presumptu- 
ous brother  to  recant.  The  matter  was  brought  before  the  gen- 
eral chapter  of  the  Saxon  province,  held  at  Heidelberg,  April 
and  May,  1518.  Luther  refused  to  recant,  but  resigned  his 
office  of  district  vicar,  to  which  his  friend  Lang  was  elected, 
Staupitz  being  again  chosen  provincial  vicar.  Far  from  recant- 
ing, the  heretic  expounded  his  fundamental  ideas  in  a  public 
debate  on  justification  by  faith  and  free  will.  "  The  doctors," 
he  writes  Spalatin  on  May  18,  "  willingly  heard  my  disputation 
and  rebutted  it  with  such  moderation  that  I  felt  much  obliged 
to  them.  My  theology,  indeed,  seemed  foreign  to  them,  yet  they 
skirmished  with  it  effectively  and  courteously,  all  except  one 
young  doctor  who  moved  the  laughter  of  the  audience  by  say- 
ing, 4  If  the  peasants  heard  you  they  would  stone  you  to  death.'  " 
Among  the  converts  won  by  the  new  leader  at  this  time  was 
Martin  Bucer,  later  one  of  the  most  prominent  of  the  Protestant 

While  at  Heidelberg,  Luther  was  received  by  the  brother  of 
the  Elector  Palatine  in  the  splendid  old  castle,  and  shown  all 
the  armor  and  precious  objects  there  collected.1 

1  The  castle,  which  Luther  describes  as  "  almost  royal,"  was  imposing-.  Some 
authorities  believe  that  it  is  reproduced,  as  it  was  about  1495,  in  the  background 
of  a  picture  of  Frederic  Count  Palatine,  sometimes  attributed  to  Diirer.  Repro- 
duced in  Mrs.  H.  Cust:  Gentlemen  Errant  (London,  1909),  p.  248.  Klassiker  der 
Kunst,  iv.  Diirer  (Stuttgart  and  Leipsic,  1908),  p.  87.  Cf.  note,  p.  396. 


Soon  after  his  return  to  Wittenberg,  Luther  wrote  the  letter 
to  the  Pope  last  translated,  which  may  have  been  forwarded  to 
his  Holiness  by  Staupitz. 

In  the  mean  time  the  Dominicans,  wounded  in  the  person  of 
Tetzel,  sent  urgent  denunciations  of  the  Wittenberg  monk  for 
heresy  to  the  fiscal  procurator  (we  should  say  attorney-general) 
of  the  Curia.  Leo  waited  to  see  what  would  be  the  result  of  the 
efforts  of  Volta,  but  when  it  was  known  that  these  had  entirely 
failed,  he  empowered  the  procurator  to  begin  a  formal  action 
"  for  suspicion  of  heresy."  At  the  desire  of  this  official,  Perusco 
by  name,  the  general  auditor  (supreme  justice  of  the  Curia), 
Jerome  Ghinnucci,  was  charged  with  the  conduct  of  the  process, 
and  Silvester  Prierias,  Master  of  the  Sacred  Palace,  was  re- 
quested to  give  an  expert  opinion  on  the  Theses.  As  a  Domini- 
can and  a  Thomist  he  discharged  his  task  thoroughly.  His 
memorial,  which  he  proudly  printed  with  the  title  The  Dialogue, 
takes  the  strongest  ground  of  papal  supremacy,  and  asserts  that 
whoever  denies  that  the  infallible  Church  has  a  right  to  do 
what  she  actually  does  is  a  heretic.  On  this  advice  Ghinnucci 
summoned  Luther  to  appear  at  Rome  within  sixty  days,  send- 
ing the  citation  together  with  the  Dialogue,  which  were  received 
by  the  professor  early  in  August.  He  answered  the  latter  by  a 
pamphlet  asserting  that  both  popes  and  councils  could  err,  and 
this  he  sent  to  Prierias  with  a  scornful  letter :  — 

Your  refutation  seemed  so  trifling  [he  wrote]  that  I  have  answered 
it  ex  tempore,  whatever  came  uppermost  in  my  mind.  If  you  wish  to 
hit  back,  be  careful  to  bring  your  Aquinas  better  armed  into  the  arena, 
lest  you  be  not  treated  so  gently  again. 

Before  Luther  had  time  to  decide  whether  to  obey  the  sum- 
mons to  Rome  or  not,  the  Curia  suddenly  altered  the  method 
of  procedure.  On  August  23  the  Pope  wrote  his  agent  in  Ger- 
many, Cardinal  Thomas  de  Vio  of  Gaeta,  thence  called  Caje- 
tan,  to  cite  Luther  to  Augsburg  at  once,  hear  him,  and  if  he 
did  not  recant,  send  him  bound  to  Rome,  or  failing  that  to  put 
him  and  his  followers  under  the  ban.  This  step  was  so  surpris- 
ing that  many  Germans  believed  it  a  breach  of  the  Canon 
Law,  which  provides  a  much  slower  process  against  a  suspected 


heretic.  Such,  however,  was  not  the  case.  The  Pope's  action  in 
expediting  matters  was  due  to  Cajetan  himself.  This  nuncio 
had  been  sent  to  Germany  to  attend  the  Diet  of  Augsburg 
(1518)  and  urge  the  cause  of  the  Turkish  war  on  the  Empire. 
From  this  vantage-point  he  had  observed  the  immense  commo- 
tion caused  by  the  Theses  and  Resolutions,  and  was  still  more 
unfavorably  impressed  by  a  sermon  on  the  ban  published  by 
the  Wittenberg  professor.  Bans,  said  he,  flew  about  like  bats, 
and  were  not  much  more  to  be  regarded  than  those  blind  little 
pests.  Cajetan  thought  he  would  teach  the  scoffing  preacher 
what  a  terrible  thing  a  ban  really  was,  and  wrote  to  Rome  warn- 
ing Leo  of  the  danger  of  allowing  Luther  at  large  any  longer, 
and  pointing  out  the  advantage  of  dealing  with  him  at  once  at 
Augsburg.  His  letter  was  enforced  by  one  from  the  Emperor 
Maximilian,  —  who  disliked  and  feared  the  Elector  Frederic,  — 
promising  his  help  in  quelling  the  schismatic. 

These  missives  had  their  desired  effect.  Ghinnucci,  especially 
shocked  by  the  flippant  reference  to  the  apostolic  thunders  as 
44  bats,"  concluded  that  Luther  was  already  a  notorious  heretic, 
and  that  he  was  justified  in  using  the  summary  process  pro- 
vided by  the  Canon  Law  against  criminals  of  this  class.  The 
moment  seemed  favorable  for  a  decisive  blow,  for  Maximilian 
had  promised  his  help.  Consequently  the  letter  of  August  23 
written  to  Cajetan,  and  accompanied  by  one  from  Volta  to  the 
Augustinian  Provincial  of  South  Germany,  Hecker,  urging  him 
to  cooperate  in  securing  the  heretic's  arrest. 

At  this  critical  juncture  Luther  was  not  left  in  the  lurch  by 
his  powerful  friends.  The  Elector  of  Saxony  refused  to  allow 
him  to  appear  without  a  safe-conduct  from  the  Emperor,  which 
was  secured  late  and  with  difficulty.  Staupitz  and  Link  also 
went  to  Augsburg,  where  the  interview  was  held,  in  order  to 
use  their  influence  against  the  employment  of  force.  Fortified 
by  this  support,  Luther  went  to  Augsburg,  where  he  arrived 
on  October  7,  but  waited  three  days  until  the  safe-conduct  of 
Maximilian  had  reached  him.  During  the  interval  he  had  a 
visit  from  an  Italian,  Urban  de  Serralonga,  with  whom  he  hn< 
the  following  conversation :  — 


Urban  —  Your  business  here  may  be  summed  up  in  one  word  of  six 
letters :  Recant ! 

Luther  —  But  may  I  not  defend  my  position,  or  at  least  be  in- 
structed on  it  ? 

Urban  —  Do  you  think  this  is  a  game  of  running  in  a  ring  ?  Don't 
you  know  that  it  is  all  right  to  deceive  the  people  a  little  —  as  you 
say  the  preachers  of  indulgence  do  —  to  get  their  money  ?  Do  you 
think  the  Elector  Frederic  will  take  arms  to  protect  you  ? 

Luther  —  I  hope  not. 

Urban  —  If  not,  where  will  you  live  ? 

Luther  —  Under  heaven. 

Urban  —  What  would  you  do  if  you  had  the  Pope  and  cardinals 
in  your  power  ? 

Luther  —  I  would  show  them  all  reverence  and  honor. 

Urban  —  (with  a  scornful  gesture)  Hem ! 

Luther  had  three  separate  interviews  with  Cajetan,  on  Octo- 
ber 12, 13,  and  14  respectively.  On  the  first  day,  having  studied 
the  etiquette  of  the  occasion,  he  fell  down  on  his  face  before 
his  judge.  Much  pleased  with  this  humility,  the  legate  com- 
plimented him  on  his  learning  and  bade  him  recant  his  errors. 
Asked  what  errors  he  meant,  the  prelate,  who  had  been  study- 
ing theology  for  two  months,  named  two :  first,  the  statement  in 
the  Theses  that  the  treasury  of  the  Church  (thesaurus  indul- 
gentiarum)  consisted  of  the  merits  of  Christ,  and  second,  the 
assertion  in  the  Resolutions  that  the  efficacy  of  the  sacrament 
depended  on  the  faith  of  the  recipient.  The  selection  was  a 
clever  one,  both  because  on  these  two  points  there  was  most 
unanimity  at  Rome,  and  also  because  it  was  supposed  that  the 
accused  would  more  readily  retract  these  purely  speculative 
points  than  others  of  a  more  practical  bearing.  That  Luther 
did  not  recant,  however,  and  that  the  altercation  with  his  judge 
at  times  became  hot  and  furious,  he  himself  tells,  in  his  own 
vivid  way,  in  a  letter  to  a  friend  at  court :  — 


Augsburg,  October  14,  1518. 
Greeting.    As  I  do  not  care  to  write  directly  to  the  Elector,  dear 
Spalatin,  do  you,  as  his  intimate  friend,  communicate  the  purport  of 


my  letter  to  him.  This  is  now  the  fourth  day  that  my  lord  the  legate 
negotiates  with  me,  or  rather  against  me.  He  fairly  promises,  indeed, 
that  he  will  do  all  mercifully  and  paternally,  for  the  sake  of  the  most 
illustrious  Elector,  but  in  reality  he  wishes  to  carry  all  before  him 
with  mere  stubborn  brute  force.  He  would  neither  allow  me  to  answer 
him  in  a  public  debate  nor  would  he  dispute  with  me  privately.  The 
one  thing  which  he  repeated  over  and  over  was :  "  Recant.  Admit 
your  error ;  the  Pope  wishes  it  so,  and  not  otherwise ;  you  must  willy, 
nilly,"  with  other  words  to  the  same  effect.  He  drew  his  most  power- 
ful argument  against  me  from  the  decretal  of  Clement  VI  Unigeni- 
tus.1  "  Here,"  said  he,  "  here  you  see  that  the  Pope  decides  that  the 
merits  of  Christ  are  the  treasury  of  the  Church ;  do  you  believe  or  do 
you  not  believe  ?  "  He  allowed  no  statement  nor  answer,  but  tried  to 
carry  his  point  with  force  of  words  and  with  clamor. 

At  length  he  was  with  difficulty  persuaded  by  thejarayers  of  many 
to  allow  me  to  present  a  written  argument.  This  I  ffl^^done  to-day, 
having  taken  with  me  Philip  von  Feilitzsch  to  represent  tne  Elector,  of 
whose  request  he  again  reminded  the  legate.  After  some  time  he  threw 
aside  my  paper  with  contempt,  and  again  clamored  for  recantation. 
With  a  long  and  wordy  argument,  drawn  from  the  foolish  books  of 
Aquinas,  he  thought  to  have  conquered  and  put  me  to  silence.  I  tried 
to  speak  nine  or  ten  times,  but  every  time  he  thundered  at  me,  and 
continued  the  monologue.  At  length  I,  too,  began  to  shout,  saying  that 
if  he  could  show  me  that  that  decretal  asserted  that  the  merits  of  Christ 
was  the  treasury  of  the  Church,  I  would  recant  as  he  wished.  Good 
Heavens,  what  gesticulation  and  rude  laughter  this  remark  caused ! 
He  suddenly  seized  the  book,  read  from  it  with  breathless  rapidity, 
until  he  came  to  the  place  where  it  is  written  that  Christ  by  his  passion 
acquired  a  treasure.  Then  I :  "  O  most  reverend  Father,  consider  this 
word  '  acquire.'  If  Christ  by  his  merits  acquired  a  treasure,  then  his 
merits  are  not  the  treasure,  but  that  which  the  merits  merited,  namely, 
the  keys  of  the  Church,  are  the  treasure.  Therefore  my  conclusion 2 
was  correct."  At  this  he  was  suddenly  confused,  but  not  wishing  to  ap- 
pear so,  suddenly  jumped  to  another  place,  thinking  it  prudent  not  to 
notice  what  I  had  said.  But  I  was  hot  and  burst  forth,  certainly  with- 
out much  reverence :  "  Do  not  think,  most  reverend  Father,  that  we 
Germans  understand  no  grammar ;  it  is  a  different  thing  to  acquire  a 

1  Canon  Law,  Extravagant,  lib.  5,  tit.  9,  cap.  6.  Not  to  be  confused  with  the 
bull  Unigenitus  of  Clement  XL 

2  In  the  Fifty-eighth  Thesis,  to  the  effect  that  the  power  of  the  keys  is  the 
treasury  of  the  Church. 


treasure  and  to  be  a,  treasure."  Having  thus  broken  his  self-confidence, 
as  he  still  clamored  for  recantation,  I  went  away.  He  said  :  "  Do  not 
return  to  me  again  unless  you  wish  to  recant." 

But  lo !  as  soon  as  he  had  finished  dinner  he  called  our  reverend 
vicar,  Father  Staupitz,  and  used  his  blandishments  on  him  to  try  to 
get  him  to  persuade  me  to  recant.  The  legate  even  asserted,  as  I  was 
absent,  that  I  had  no  better  friend  than  he.  When  Staupitz  answered 
that  he  had  always  advised  me,  and  still  did  so,  to  submit  humbly  to 
the  Church,  and  that  I  had  declared  publicly  that  I  would  do  so, 
Cajetan  even  confessed  that  he  was,  in  his  own  opinion,  inferior  to 
me  in  theological  learning  and  in  talent,  but  that,  as  the  represent- 
ative of  the  Pope  and  of  the  prelates,  it  was  his  duty  to  persuade  me 
to  recant.  At  length  they  agreed  that  he  should  suggest  articles  for 
nie  to  revoke. 

Thus  the  bua^ess  stands.  I  have  no  hope  nor  confidence  in  him. 
I  am  prepa^ri^an  appeal,  resolved   not  to  recant  a  syllable.    If  he 
proceeds  as  he  has  begun,  by  force,  I  shall  publish  my  answer  to  him, 
that  he  may  be  confounded  throughout  the  whole  world. 
Farewell  in  haste, 

Brother  Martin  Luther,  Augustinian. 

As  indicated  in  this  letter,  Staupitz  and  Liuk  were  far  more 
amenable  to  pressure  than  was  Luther.  They  hoped  that  all 
might  be  settled  peaceably,  in  a  way  which  would  satisfy  the 
legate  without  Tjompromising  their  brother.  Finding  that  he 
was  immovable,  Staupitz  absolved  him  from  the  vow  of  obedi- 
ence, partly  to  relieve  himself  from  responsibility,  and  partly, 
no  doubt,  to  guard  him  against  molestation  from  Hecker  and 
Volta.  Staupitz  and  Link  then  judged  it  best  to  retire  from  the 
city  without  giving  the  nuncio  notice  of  their  intention. 

On  October  16,  Luther  drew  up  an  appeal  from  the  Pope 
badly  informed  to  the  Pope  to  be  better  informed,  and  the  next 
day  wrote  Cajetan  a  courteous  but  firm  letter.  Notwithstanding 
all  precautions,  the  accused  man  stood  in  considerable  danger, 
for  safe-conducts  to  heretics  had  been  broken  before.  The 
moment  was  almost  as  decisive  as  the  later  one  at  Worms,  and 
here,  as  there,  the  heroic  monk  stood  like  iron  against  the  threats 
of  foes  and  the  supplication  of  friends  alike,  resolved  to  do 
nothing  against  his  conscience. 



(Augsburg,  October  17,  1518.) 

Very  Reverend  Father  in  Christ,  I  come  again,  not  personally  but 
in  writing ;  deign  to  hear  me  mercifully. 

My  reverend  and  beloved  father  in  Christ,  our  Vicar  John  Staupitz, 
has  pleaded  with  me  to  think  humbly  of  my  own  opinion  and  to  sub- 
mit, and  has  persuaded  me  that  your  Reverence  is  favorably  disposed 
towards  me.  ...  So  that  my  fear  has  gradually  passed  away,  or  rather 
changed  into  a  singular  love  and  true,  filial  veneration  for  your  Rever- 

Now,  Most  Reverend  Father  in  Christ,  I  confess,  as  I  have  before 
confessed,  that  I  was  assuredly  unwise  and  too  bitter,  and  too  irrever- 
ent to  the  name  of  the  Pope.  And  although  I  had  the  greatest  provo- 
cation, I  know  I  should  have  acted  with  more  moderation  and  humility, 
and  not  have  answered  a  fool  according  to  his  folly.  For  so  doing  I  am 
most  sincerely  sorry,  and  ask  pardon,  and  will  say  so  from  the  pulpit, 
as  I  have  already  done  several  times,  and  I  shall  take  care  in  future  to 
act  differently -and  speak  otherwise  by  God's  mercy.  Moreover  I  am 
quite  ready  to  promise  never  to  speak  of  indulgences  again  and  to  main- 
tain silence,  provided  only  the  same  rule,  either  of  speaking  or  of  keep- 
ing silence,  be  imposed  on  those  men  who  have  led  me  into  this  tragic 

For  the  rest,  most  reverend  and  now  beloved  Father  in  Christ,  as  to 
the  truth  of  my  opinion,  I  would  most  readily  recant,  both  by  your 
command  and  the  advice  of  my  vicar,  if  my  conscience  in  any  way 
allowed  it.  But  I  know  that  neither  the  command  nor  the  advice  nor 
the  influence  of  any  one  ought  to  make  me  do  anything  against  con- 
science or  can  do  so.  For  the  arguments  [you  cite]  from  Aquinas  and 
others  are  not  convincing  to  me,  although  I  have  read  thern  over  in 
preparation  for  my  debates  and  have  thoroughly  understood  them.  I 
do  not  think  their  conclusions  are  drawn  from  correct  premises.  The 
only  thing  left  is  to  overcome  me  with  better  reasons,  in  which  I  may 
hear  the  voice  of  the  Bride  which  is  also  the  voice  of  the  Bridegroom. 

I  humbly  implore  your  Reverence  to  deign  to  refer  this  case  to  our 
Most  Holy  Lord  Leo  X,  that  these  doubts  may  be  settled  by  the 
Church,  so  that  he  may  either  compel  a  just  withdrawal  of  my  propo- 
sitions or  else  their  just  affirmation.  I  wish  only  to  follow  the  Church, 
and  I  know  not  what  effect  my  recantation  of  doubtful  and  unsettled 
opinions  might  have,  but  I  fear  that  I  might  be  reproached,  and  with 


reason,  for  not  knowing  either  what  I  asserted  or  what  I  withdrew. 
May  your  Reverence  deign  to  receive  my  humble  and  suppliant  peti- 
tion, and  to  treat  me  with  mercy  as  a  son. 

Your  Reverence's  devoted  son, 

Brother  Martin  Luther,  Augustinian. 

After  waiting  in  vain  for  three  days  for  an  answer,  Luther 
left  Augsburg  secretly  at  night  and  returned  to  Wittenberg. 
The  first  thing  he  did  there  was  to  write  out  the  account  of  the 
interview  of  which  he  had  spoken  to  Spalatin,  and  to  publish  it 
as  the  Acta  Augustana.  In  the  preface  to  the  reader  he  says  :  — 

They  vexed  Reuchlin  a  long  time  for  some  advice  he  gave  them,  now 
they  vex  me  for  proposing  questions  for  debate.  Who  is  safe  from  the 
teeth  of  this  Behemoth  ?  .  .  . 

I  see  that  books  are  published  and  various  rumors  scattered  abroad 
about  what  I  did  at  Augsburg,  although  truly  I  did  nothing  there  but 
lose  the  time  and  expense  of  the  journey  .  .  .  for  I  was  instructed 
there  that  to  teach  the  truth  is  the  same  as  to  disturb  the  Church,  but 
to  flatter  men  and  deny  Christ  is  considered  the  same  as  pacifying  and 
exalting  the  Church  of  Christ. 

Foiled  of  his  purpose,  Cajetan  wrote  the  Elector  Frederic 
asking  him  to  arrest  Luther  and  send  him  to  Rome.  The  peace- 
loving  prince  may  have  wavered  for  an  instant.  According  to 
the  story  he  summoned  his  counsellors  and  asked  their  advice. 
One  of  them,  Fabian  von  Feilitzsch,  related  the  fable  of  the 
sheep,  who,  at  the  advice  of  the  wolves,  sent  away  the  watch- 
dogs. If  we  give  up  Luther,  he  concluded,  we  shall  have  no  one 
to  write  in  our  defence,  but  they  will  accuse  us  all  of  being 
heretics.  It  is  probable  that  Frederic  never  seriously  considered 
the  surrender  of  his  subject,  but  he  did  ponder  a  plan  to  hide 
him  in  a  castle,  as  he  later  did  in  the  Wartburg.  Early  in  De- 
cember Spalatin  and  Luther  had  a  meeting  at  Lichtenberg  to 
discuss  this  project,  which  was  not  adopted.  On  December  8  the 
Elector  wrote  a  diplomatic  letter  to  the  cardinal,  saying  that  he 
was  not  convinced  that  the  accused  was  a  heretic,  but  had  rather 
been  informed  by  learned  men  that  his  doctrines  were  only 
objectionable  to  those  whose  pecuniary  interests  were  involved. 
He  wished  only  to  act  as  a  Christian  prince,  but  could  not  com- 


promise  his  university  b}7  sending  an  uncondemned  man  to 

Cajetan  had  been  convinced  by  his  interview  that  it  would  be 
difficult  to  convict  Luther  of  heresy.  He  therefore  requested 
Leo  to  settle  the  points  in  dispute  once  for  all  by  an  ex  cathedra 
declaration.  This  was  done  in  a  bull  of  November  9,  which, 
without  mentioning  names,  condemned  the  errors  of  certain 
monks  on  indulgences  and  other  points.  The  claim  could  now 
no  longer  be  made  that  the  matters  in  question  were  not  decided 

Immediately  upon  the  failure  of  Cajetan  to  arrest  the  heretic, 
the  Pope  dispatched  a  special  nuncio  to  Germany  for  this  pur- 
pose, Charles  von  Miltitz.  '  Hoping  to  win  the  Elector  to  his 
side,  Leo  sent  him  a  long-coveted  honor,  the  anointed  golden 
rose,  with  flattering  letters  both  to  him  and  to  his  principal 
counsellors.  On  the  other  hand,  Miltitz  was  furnished  with  a 
ban  against  Luther  and  power  to  declare  the  interdict  (i.  e., 
suspension  of  all  ministrations  of  the  Church  except  baptism 
and  supreme  unction)  against  Saxony.  Cajetan  had  not  thought 
it  wise  to  excommunicate  a  man  whom  he  had  not  been  able 
to  convict,  but  now  it  was  felt  that  there  would  be  no  more 
excuse  for  delay,  and  that  the  disturber  of  the  Church's  peace 
would  be  brought  to  terms  at  once. 

The  plan  of  Rome  was  wrecked  partly  by  the  resistance  of 
Frederic,  partly  by  the  conduct  of  Miltitz,  a  Saxon  by  birth, 
and  a  vain,  frivolous  person,  who  forgot  his  instructions  as 
soon  as  he  arrived  in  Germany,  hoping  that  instead  of  using 
force  he  could  set  everything  right  by  gentle  means.  He  ac- 
cordingly arranged  for  a  personal  interview  with  the  Augustin- 
ian  friar,  whom  he  expected  to  cajole  into  recantation ;  this 
took  place  at  Altenburg,  the  capital  of  Electoral  Saxony,  early 
in  January,  1519.  The  result  of  the  first  day's  negotiations  is 
thus  related  in  a  letter  :  — 


(Altenburg,  January  5  or  6,  1519.) 
Most  serene,  highborn  Prince,  most  gracious  Lord !    It  overwhelms 
me  to  think  how  far  your  Grace  has  been  drawn  into  my  affairs,  but 


as  necessity  and  God  so  dispose  it,  I  beg  your  Grace  to  be  favorable 

Charles  von  Miltitz  yesterday  pointed  out  with  care  the  crimes  I 
had  committed  against  the  Roman  Church,  and  I  humbly  promised 
to  make  what  amends  I  could.  I  beg  your  Grace  to  attend  to  the  plan 
I  proposed,  for  by  it  I  meant  to  please  your  Grace. 

First,  I  agreed  to  let  the  matter  alone  henceforth,  until  it  bleeds  to 
death  of  itself,  provided  my  opponents  also  keep  silence.  .  .  . 

Secondly,  I  agreed  to  write  to  his  Holiness  the  Pope,  humbly  sub- 
mitting and  recognizing  that  I  had  been  too  hot  and  hasty,  though  I 
never  meant  to  do  aught  against  the  Holy  Roman  Church,  but  only 
as  her  true  son  to  attack  the  scandalous  preaching  whereby  she  is 
made  a  mockery,  a  byword,  a  stumbling-block,  and  an  offence  to  the 

Thirdly,  I  promised  to  send  out  a  paper  admonishing  every  one  to 
follow  the  Roman  Church,  obey  and  honor  her,  and  explaining  that 
my  writings  were  not  to  be  understood  in  a  sense  damaging  to 
her.  .  .  . 

Fourthly,  Spalatin  proposed,  on  the  recommendation  of  Fabian  von 
Feilitzsch,  to  leave  the  case  to  the  Archbishop  of  Salzburg.1  I  should 
abide  by  his  judgment,  with  that  of  other  learned  and  impartial  men, 
or  else  return  to  my  appeal.  Or  perhaps  the  matter  might  remain  un- 
decided and  things  be  allowed  to  take  their  natural  course.  But  I  fear 
the  Pope  will  allow  no  other  judge  but  himself,  nor  can  I  tolerate  his 
judgment ;  if  the  present  plan  fails,  we  shall  have  to  go  through  the 
farce  of  the  Pope  writing  a  text  and  my  writing  the  commentary. 
That  would  do  no  good. 

Miltitz  thinks  my  propositions  unsatisfactory,  but  does  not  demand 
recantation.  .  .  . 

Your  Grace's  obedient  chaplain, 

Doctor  Martin. 

In  accordance  with  this  plan  Luther  drew  up  a  very  humble 
letter  to  the  Pope,  but  as  it  did  not  satisfy  Miltitz  he  never 
sent  it.  On  the  second  day  of  the  conference  for  the  agreement 
here  proposed  there  was  substituted  a  much  simpler  one. 

1  Mathew  Lang,  at  this  time  coadjutor,  though  soon  after  Archbishop  of  Salz- 
burg, is  meant.  He  was  a  close  friend  of  Staupitz. 



(Altenburg,  January  6  or  7,  1519.) 
Serene,  highborn  Prince,  gracious  Lord!    Let  me  humbly  inform 
your  Grace  that  Charles  von  Miltitz  and  I  have  at  last  come  to  an 
agreement,  and  concluded  our  negotiations  with  two  articles. 

1.  Both  sides  shall  be  inhibited  from  preaching,  writing,  and  acting 
further  in  the  matter. 

2.  Miltitz  will  write  the  Pope  at  once,  informing  him  how  things 
stand,  and  asking  him  to  recommend  the  matter  to  some  learned 
bishop,  who  will  hear  me  and  point  out  the  errors  I  am  to  recant. 
For  when  I  have  learned  my  mistakes,  I  will  gladly  withdraw  them, 
and  do  nothing  to  impair  the  honor  and  power  of  the  Roman  Church. 

The  letter  of  Miltitz  to  the  Pope  was  couched  in  somewhat 
too  sanguine  terms.  He  represented  that  Luther  was  ready 
to  recant  everything.  Leo  was  so  pleased  to  hear  it  that  he 
dispatched  a  right  friendly  missive  to  the  Wittenberg  monk 
(March  29, 1519)  inviting  him  to  Rome  to  make  his  confession, 
and  even  offering  him  money  for  the  journey. 

That  he  was  able  to  take  no  further  action  for  a  time  was 
due  to  the  political  situation.  In  January,  1519,  the  Emperor 
Maximilian  died.  Among  the  candidates  for  the  position  were 
King  Charles  of  Spain,  King  Francis  of  France,  and  the 
Elector  Frederic.  The  interest  of  the  papacy  in  this  election 
overshadowed  all  other  matters  for  a  time,  and  the  cautious 
policy  necessary  prevented  too  much  pressure  being  brought  to 
bear  on  Frederic.  The  process  for  heresy  was  consequently 
suspended  during  fourteen  months. 

If  Miltitz  had  been  satisfied  with  his  interview,  Luther  was 
not.  When  they  parted  with  the  kiss  of  peace  he  felt  that  it  was 
a  Judas  kiss  and  that  the  envoy's  tears  were  crocodile's  tears. 
He  tried,  nevertheless,  to  live  up  to  the  spirit  of  the  agreement. 
In  fulfilment  of  the  third  proposition  in  the  first  day's  inter- 
view, he  published  An  Instruction  on  Certain  Articles.  In  this 
he  explains  his  position  on  a  number  of  points.  Prayers  for 
the  dead  in  purgatory  he  thinks  are  allowable.  Of  indulgences 
it  is  enough  for  the  common  man  to  know  that  indulgence  is  a 
relaxation  of  the  satisfaction  for  sin,  but  is  a  much  smaller  thing 


than  a  work  of  charity,  for  it  is  free ;  no  one  sins  in  not  buying 
a  papal  pardon,  but  if  he  buys  one  instead  of  giving  to  the  poor 
or  helping  his  neighbor,  he  sins,  mocking  himself  and  God.  The 
Church's  commands,  he  says,  are  to  be  obeyed,  yet  one  should 
place  God's  commands  higher.  "  Of  good  works  I  have  said, 
and  still  say,  that  no  one  is  good  nor  can  any  one  do  right, 
unless  God's  grace  first  makes  him  just ;  wherefore  no  one  is 
justified  by  works,  but  good  works  come  naturally  from  him 
who  is  just."  In  conclusion  he  adds  that  there  is  no  doubt  that 
God  has  honored  the  Roman  Church  above  all  others. 

The  first  article  of  the  agreement,  that  both  sides  should  main- 
tain silence,  came  to  nothing,  for  neither  party  observed  the  truce, 
and  the  whole  controversy  was  soon  given  an  £ven  wider  pub- 
licity than  it  had  yet  attained,  by  an  event  of  the  first  import- 
ance, the  great  debate  with  John  Eck  at  Leipsic. 



The  ablest  and  most  persistent  opponent  Luther  ever  had 
was  John  Eck.  From  1517  to  1543  this  champion  of  the  Church 
met  him  at  every  turn  and  did  everything  in  his  power  to  foil 
the  great  heresiarch.  Like  the  Wittenberger,  Eck  was  a  peasant 
by  extraction  and  a  monk  by  profession,  a  theologian  of  no 
mean  ability  and  a  man  of  energy  and  resource.  Before  1517 
he  had  distinguished  himself  in  debates  at  Vienna  and  else- 
where, and  burned  to  make  himself  still  more  famous  in  this 
line.  Just  before  Luther  crossed  his  path,  he  charged  Erasmus 
—  the  foremost  scholar  of  the  day —  with  something  very  like 
heresy  because  the  latter  had  said  that  the  Greek  of  the  New 
Testament  was  not  as  good  as  that  of  Demosthenes.1 

The  publication  of  the  Ninety-five  Theses  gave  him  a  more 
substantial  object  to  attack,  and  he  at  once  assailed  them  in  a 
pamphlet  called  Obelisks  (literally  the  small  daggers  with  which 
notes  are  marked).  Of  it  Luther  wrote,  on  March  24,  1518,  to 
his  friend  John  Silvius  Egranus  of  Zwickau  :  — 

A  man  of  signal  and  talented  learning  and  of  learned  talent  has 
recently  written  a  book  against  my  Theses.  I  mean  John  Eck,  doctor 
of  theology,  chancellor  of  the  university  of  Ingolstadt,  canon  of  Eich- 
statt  and  preacher  at  Augsburg,  a  man  already  famous  and  widely 
known  as  an  author.  What  cuts  me  most  is  that  we  had  recently 
formed  a  great  friendship.  Did  I  not  already  know  the  machinations 
of  Satan,  I  should  be  astonished  at  the  fury  with  which  Eck  has 
broken  that  sweet  amity  without  warning  or  letter  of  farewell. 

In  his  Obelisks  he  calls  me  a  fanatic  Hussite,  heretical,  seditious, 
insolent  and  rash,  not  to  mention  such  slight  abuse  as  that  I  am 
dreaming,  clumsy,  unlearned,  and  a  despiser  of  the  Pope.  In  short  the 
book  is  nothing  but  the  foulest  abuse,  expressly  mentioning  my  name 
and  directed  against  my  Theses.  It  is  nothing  less  than  the  malice  and 

1  Erasmi  opera.  Leyden,  1703,  vol.  iii,  no.  303,  February  2,  1518. 


envy  of  a  maniac.  I  would  have  swallowed  this  sop  for  Cerberus,1  but 
my  friends  compelled  me  to  answer  it. 

The  answer  was  a  pamphlet  entitled  Asterisks,  circulated  in 

Before  the  altercation  had  progressed  any  further,  it  was 
taken  out  of  Luther's  hands  by  another  Wittenberg  professor, 
John  Bodenstein  of  Carlstadt,  a  man  destined  to  play  an  im- 
portant part  in  the  Protestant  revolt.  Though  careful  to  incur 
no  great  danger,  he  was  by  nature  a  revolutionary,  and  longed 
to  out-Luther  Luther.  While  the  latter  was  away  at  Heidelberg 
in  the  spring  of  1518,  Carlstadt  came  forward  with  a  set  of 
theses  against  Eck  on  free  will  and  the  authority  of  Scripture. 
The  Ingolstadt  professor  answered  these  with  some  counter- 
theses,  in  which  an  extreme  view  of  the  papal  supremacy  was 
maintained.  Carlstadt,  who  held  a  benefice  directly  from  the 
Pope,  was  not  prepared  to  answer  this  point,  but  Luther  had  no 
such  scruples,  and  towards  the  end  of  the  year  he  published 
twelve  propositions  directed  against  Eck.  Of  these  the  most 
important  was  the  twelfth :  — 

The  assertion  that  the  Roman  Church  is  superior  to  all  other 
Churches  is  proved  only  by  weak  and  vain  (frigidis)  papal  decrees  of 
the  last  four  hundred  years,  against  which  militate  the  accredited 
history  of  eleven  hundred  years,  the  Bible,  and  the  decree  of  the 
Nicene  Council,  the  holiest  of  all  councils. 

This  unheard-of  attack  on  the  power  of  the  Roman  See  made 
an  immense  sensation.  Eck  could  not  leave  it  unnoticed,  nor 
did  he  wish  to,  and  therefore  arranged  that  he  should  debate 
with  both  Wittenberg  professors.  A  letter  —  according  to 
modern  notions  a  very  rude  one  —  written  during  the  course 
of  negotiations,  is  illuminating :  2  — 


Wittenberg,  February  18,  1519. 
I  wish  you  salutation  and  that  you  may  stop  seducing  Christian 
souls.    I  regret,  Eck,  to  find  so  many  reasons  to  believe  that  your  pro- 

1  As  Burke  would  have  said,  "  this  honeyed  opiate  compounded  bf  treason  and 

2  Enders,  v,  6. 


fessed  friendship  for  me  is  hypocritical.  You  boast  that  you  seek 
God's  glory,  the  truth,  the  salvation  of  souls,  the  increase  of  the  faith, 
and  that  you  teach  of  indulgences  and  pardons  for  the  same  reasons. 
You  have  such  a  thick  head  and  cloudy  brain  that,  as  the  apostle  says, 
you  know  not  what  you  say.  .  .  . 

I  wish  you  would  fix  the  date  for  the  disputation  or  tell  me  if  you 
wish  me  to  fix  it.   More  then.    Farewell. 

Leipsic  was  finally  chosen  as  the  ground  for  the  debate. 
The  faculty  of  that  university  made  some  difficulties,  fearing 
to  become  involved,  but  Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony, 
maintaining  that  the  advancement  of  Christian  truth  was  the 
chief  end  of  the  university,  forced  them  to  yield.  During  the 
next  six  months  Luther's  principal  occupation  was  the  prepara- 
tion for  the  battle,  for  which  he  plunged  eagerly  into  the  study 
of  Church  history  and  especially  of  the  Canon  Law.  The  re- 
sults of  these  researches,  which  left  a  lasting  influence  on  his 
mind,  are  brilliantly  portrayed  in  two  letters  written  on  the 
same  day  to  his  best  friend :  — 


(Wittenberg,  about  February  24, 1519.  Letter  no.  1.) 
Greeting.  I  beseech  you,  dear  Spalatin,  be  not  fearful  nor  let  your 
heart  be  downcast  with  human  cares.  You  know  that  if  Christ  did  not 
rule  me,  I  should  have  perished  long  ago,  either  at  the  first  contro- 
versy about  indulgences,  or  when  my  sermon  on  them  was  published, 
or  when  I  promulgated  my  Resolutions,  or  when  I  answered  Prierias, 
or  recently  in  the  interview  at  Augsburg,  especially  as  I  went  thither. 
What  mortal  man  was  there  who  did  not  either  fear  or  hope  that  I 
would  cause  my  death  by  one  of  these  things  ?  In  fact  Olsnitzer  re- 
cently wrote  from  Rome  to  our  honorary  chancellor,  the  Duke  of  Po- 
merania,  that  my  Resolutions  and  Answer  to  Prierias  had  so  perturbed 
the  Roman  Church  that  they  were  at  a  loss  how  to  suppress  them,  but 
that  they  intended  to  attack  me  not  by  law,  but  by  Italian  subtility 
—  these  were  his  very  words.  I  understand  this  to  mean  poison  or 

I  repress  much  for  the  sake  of  the  Elector  and  university  which 
otherwise  I  should  pour  out  against  that  spoiler  of  the  Bible  and  the 
Church,  Rome,  or  rather  Babylon.  For  the  truth  of  the  Scripture  and 
of  the  Church  cannot  be  spoken,  dear  Spalatin,  without  offending  that 


beast.  Do  not  therefore  hope  that  I  shall  be  quiet  or  safe  in  future 
unless  you  wish  me  to  give  up  theology  altogether.  Let  my  friends 
think  me  mad.  For  the  thing  will  not  be  ended  (if  it  be  of  God)  even 
should  all  my  friends  desert  me  as  all  Christ's  disciples  and  friends 
deserted  him,  and  the  truth  be  left  alone  to  save  herself  by  her  own 
might,  not  by  mine  nor  by  yours  nor  by  any  man's.  I  have  expected 
this  hour  from  the  first. 

My  twelfth  proposition  was  extorted  from  me  by  Eck,  but,  as  the 
Pope  has  defenders  enough,  I  do  not  think  they  ought  to  take  it  ill 
unless  they  forget  the  freedom  of  debate.  At  all  events,  even  should  I 
perish,  nothing  will  be  lost  to  the  world.  For  my  friends  at  Wittenberg 
have  now  progressed  so  far,  by  God's  grace,  that  they  do  not  need  me 
at  all.  What  will  you  ?  I  fear  I  am  not  worthy  to  suffer  and  die  for 
such  a  cause.  That  will  be  the  blessed  lot  of  better  men,  not  of  so  foul 
a  sinner.  .  .  . 


(Wittenberg,  about  February  24,  1519.  Letter  no.  2.) 
Greeting.  I  had  just  finished  my  last  letter,  dear  Spalatin,  when 
Carlstadt  gave  me  the  letter  which  you  sent  him,  full  of  such  com- 
plaints that  I  was  almost  moved  to  anger.  You  urge  me  to  tell  my 
plan.  I  am  not  unwilling  for  you  to  know  what  I  intend,  but  I  know 
the  best  way  to  defeat  a  plan  is  to  tell  it,  especially  if  the  matter  be  of 
God,  who  does  not  like  his  plans  to  be  laid  bare  before  they  are  ful- 
filled. .  .  . 

You  know  that  I  have  to  do  with  a  crafty,  arrogant,  slippery,  loud- 
mouthed sophist,  whose  one  aim  is  to  traduce  me  publicly  and  hand 
me  over  to  the  Pope  devoted  to  all  the  furies.  You  will  understand 
his  iniquitous  snares  if  you  read  his  twelfth  proposition.1  Wherefore, 
considering  his  craft,  and  seeing  that  I  was  about  to  be  ruined  by  his 
arts,  I  carefully  prepared  my  twelfth  proposition,  that  he  may  imagine 
that  he  has  most  certainly  triumphed,  and  while  singing  a  pecan  of 
joy,  shall  forthwith  expose  himself  to  the  scorn  of  all,  God  willing. 
For  I  know  that  at  this  stage  of  the  debate  he  will  burst  forth  pas- 
sionately gesticulating  and  shouting  that  I  cannot  prove  my  assertion, 
but  have  made  a  mistake  in  reckoning  time  (as  you  also  think),  and 
that  it  is  much  more  than  four  hundred  years  ago,  more  than  a  thou- 
sand, ever  since  the  time  of  Pope  Julius  I,  directly  after  the  Nicene 

.  1  Asserting  the  universal  supremacy  of  the  Pope,  opposed  to  Luther's  twelfth 
proposition  quoted  above. 


Council,  that  the  Roman  Church  published  decrees  asserting  that  she 
was  the  superior  of  all  and  that  no  council  could  be  called  without  her 
assent.  Relying  on  these  statements  he  will  even  laugh,  I  hope,  at  my 
incredible  folly  and  rashness. 

Then  I  shall  say  that  these  decrees  were  not  then  received,  and  that 
if  Gregory  IX,  the  first  collector  of  the  decretals  (who  in  the  time  of 
Frederick  II  canonized  St.  Francis,  St.  Dominic,  and  our  own  St. 
Elizabeth,  i.  e.,  is  not  yet  dead  four  hundred  years),  and  if  Boniface 
VIII,  author  of  the  sixth  book  of  decretals,  and  Clement  V,  author  of 
the  Clementines,  had  not  collected  these  decretals  and  published  them, 
Germany  would  doubtless  never  have  known  them.1  Therefore  it  is 
to  be  attributed  to  these  three  popes  that  the  decretals  of  the  Roman 
pontiffs  were  spread  abroad  and  the  Roman  tyranny  was  established. 

To  what  conclusion  do  these  arguments  lead  ?  I  deny  that  the  Roman 
Church  is  superior  to  all  Churches,  but  not  that  she  is  our  superior,  as 
she  now  is  de  facto.  How  will  Eck  prove  that  the  Church  of  Constan- 
tinople, or  any  Greek  Church,  or  that  of  Antioch  or  Alexandria  or 
Africa  or  Egypt,  was  ever  under  the  Roman  Church  or  received 
bishops  confirmed  by  her  ?  .  .  . 

We  Germans  established  the  authority  of  the  popes  as  much  as  we 
could  when  the  Empire  was  transferred  to  us,  and  in  return  we  have 
borne  them  as  a  punishment  of  the  furies,  headsmen  and  tormentors 
and  blood-suckers  of  archbishoprics  and  bishoprics. 

I  call  the  decretals  "  vain  "  because  they  twist  scriptural  texts  to 
their  own  purposes,  texts  which  speak  nothing  of  government  but 
only  of  spiritual  food  and  faith.  .  .  . 

I  count  the  papal  power  as  a  thing  indifferent,  like  wealth  or  health 
or  other  temporal  goods,  and  am  very  sorry  that  so  much  is  made  of 
temporal  matters,  which  are  insisted  on  as  if  by  the  command  of  God, 
though  he  always  teaches  that  they  should  be  despised.  How  can  I  bear 
with  equanimity  this  perverse  interpretation  of  God's  Word  and  that 
wrong  opinion,  even  if  I  allow  the  power  of  the  Roman  Church  as  a 

thing  convenient  ? 


Brother  Martin  Luther,  Augustinian. 

1  The  Canon  Law  is  composed  of  several  parts.  The  first,  the  Decretum  of  Gra- 
tian  is  a  collection  of  ancient  canons  made  in  the  twelfth  century.  To  this  Greg- 
ory IX  added  five  hooks  of  decretals  (literce  decretales  1243),  and  Boniface  VIII 
a  sixth  book  (liber  sextus,  1298).  Other  additions,  the  Clementines  and  Extravagantes, 
were  made  at  various  times  later  until  1484.  Many  of  the  decretals  in  the  Canon 
Law  are  forgeries,  as  Luther  says. 


Of  the  sojourn  in  Leipsic  (June  27-July  18),  the  reception 
there  and  the  debate  itself,  the  best  account  is  given  by  Luther 
in  the  letter  next  translated.  The  encounter  was  held  in  a  richly 
decorated  hall  of  the  Pleissenburg,  a  castle  only  recently  torn 
down  to  make  way  for  the  new  Rathaus.  A  large  and  dis- 
tinguished audience  had  gathered,  including  Duke  George,  later 
one  of  the  most  determined  opponents  of  the  new  doctrine. 

An  eye-witness  has  left  us  the  first  description  of  Luther  as 
he  appeared  on  this  occasion,  and  one  which  agrees  well  with 
Cranach's  earliest  portrait  of  him,  the  wood-cut  of  1520.  He 
was  of  middle  height,  so  emaciated  that  one  could  almost  count 
his  bones,  yet  he  seemed  in  the  vigor  of  manhood.  His  voice  was 
clear  and  distinct.  Polite  and  cheerful  in  society,  he  affected  no 
stoicism,  but  gave  each  hour  its  due.  His  serene  countenance 
was  never  disturbed.  The  richness  and  fluency  of  his  Latin 
diction  was  noticed,  as  was  his  careful  preparation  of  the  ma- 

Only  contemporaries  could  appreciate  the  ability  of  the  speak- 
ers in  this  debate,  full  notes  of  which  have  been  preserved.  In 
learning  and  force  of  argument  the  honors  seem  to  be  about 
equal.  Eck  manoeuvred  skilfully  to  make  Luther's  opinions 
appear  identical  with  those  of  Huss.  The  latter  took  up  the  chal- 
lenge, and  on  the  second  day  of  the  combat  boldly  asserted : 
"  It  is  certain  that  among  the  articles  of  John  Huss  and  the 
Bohemians  there  are  many  which  are  most  Christian  and  evan- 
gelic, which  the  universal  Church  is  not  able  to  condemn.,, 
These  words  sent  a  thrill  through  the  audience :  Duke  George 
put  his  arms  akimbo,  shook  his  head,  and  said  loudly,  "  That 's 
the  plague." 

Eck  had  accomplished  his  point  in  driving  Luther  to  a  posi- 
tion of  universally  acknowledged  heresy.  He  played  his  ad- 
vantage with  great  skill,  taxing  his  opponent  over  and  over  with 
being  a  Hussite,  Luther  often  interrupting  him  with  "  It  is 
false,"  or,  "  He  lies  impudently." 

After  the  question  of  the  papal  supremacy  was  put  aside  for 
other  points,  the  debate,  which  continued  until  July  14,  was 
comparatively  tame.  Let  us  now  hear  what  Luther  has  to  say 
about  it :  — 



(Wittenberg,)  July  20,  1519. 

...  I  should  have  written  long  ago  about  this  famous  debate  of 
ours,  but  I  had  neither  time  nor  place  to  do  it.  Certain  men  of  Leipsic, 
neither  candidly  nor  justly,  triumph  with  Eck  and  babble  of  his  fame, 
but  you  can  judge  of  it  from  my  account. 

Almost  the  instant  that  we  came,  before  we  had  descended  from  our 
wagons,  the  Inhibition  '  of  the  Bishop  of  Merseburg  was  fixed  to  the 
doors  of  the  churches,  alleging  against  the  debate  some  new  points, 
declaratory  and  other.  This  was  disregarded,  and  he  who  had  posted 
the  notice  was  thrown  into  chains  by  the  Town  Council  because  he  had 
done  it  without  their  knowledge. 

Accomplishing  nothing  by  this  trick,  they  resorted  to  another.  Hav- 
ing called  Carlstadt  aside,  they  urged  him  (at  Eck's  desire)  to  agree 
that  the  debate  should  not  be  reported  in  writing,  for  he  hoped  to  get 
the  better  of  us  by  shouting  and  gesticulating,  in  which  points  indeed 
he  is  our  superior.  Carlstadt  said  that  the  agreement  had  already  been 
made  and  must  be  adhered  to,  and  that  the  debate  should  be  reported. 
At  length,  to  obtain  this  point  at  all,  he  was  forced  to  consent  that  the 
report  of  the  debate  should  not  be  published  prior  to  the  decision  of 
the  judges.  Then  a  new  dispute  arose  about  choosing  them.  At  length 
they  forced  him  to  consent  that  the  judges  should  be  chosen  after  the 
disputation  was  finished,  otherwise  they  would  not  debate  at  all.  Thus 
they  put  us  on  the  horns  of  a  dilemma,  so  that  in  either  case  we  should 
have  the  worst  of  it,  whether  we  refused  to  debate  on  these  terms,  or 
recognized  the  necessity  of  submitting  to  unjust  judges.  See  how  plain 
is  their  guile  by  which  they  would  filch  the  freedom  we  had  agreed 
upon !  For  we  know  that  the  universities  and  the  Pope  will  either  never 
decide  or  will  decide  against  us,  which  is  just  what  they  desire. 

The  next  day  they  called  me  aside  and  proposed  the  same  thing.  I 
refused  their  conditions,  fearing  the  Pope.  Then  they  proposed  the 
universities  as  judges  without  the  Pope.  I  asked  that  the  conditions 
agreed  upon  be  observed,  and  when  they  refused  I  withdrew  and  de- 
clined to  debate.  At  once  an  uncontradicted  report  went  abroad  that 
I  dared  not,  and  what  was  worse  would  allow  no  judges.  The  affair 
was  bandied  about  and  interpreted  in  the  most  odious  and  malignant 
light,  so  that  they  even  won  over  our  best  friends  and  prepared  a  last- 

1  The  bishop  thought  the  matter  of  the  debate  had  already  been  decided  by  the 
bull  of  November  9,  1518,  mentioned  above,  p.  54. 


ing  shame  for  our  university.  So  I  went  to  them  with  conciliatory- 
friends,  and  accepted  their  conditions,  even  though  indignant  at  them. 
But  I  reserved  my  power  of  appeal  and  excluded  the  Roman  Curia,  so 
that  there  might  be  no  prejudice  to  my  case. 

Eck  and  Carlstadt  debated  a  week  on  free  will.  Carlstadt  with 
God's  help  advanced  splendid  and  copious  arguments  and  citations  and 
brought  books  to  prove  his  points.  A  chance  was  thus  given  Eck  to 
oppose  Carlstadt ;  he  refused  to  debate  unless  the  books  were  left  at 
home,  because  by  them  Carlstadt  could  prove  the  correctness  of  his 
own  quotations  from  the  Bible  and  the  Fathers  and  the  inaccuracy  of 
Eck's.  So  another  tumult  arose.  At  length  it  was  decided  for  Eck  that 
the  books  should  be  left  at  home,  but  who  cannot  see  that  when  a  ques- 
tion of  truth  is  at  stake  it  is  desirable  to  have  the  books  at  hand? 
Never  did  hatred  and  ambition  show  themselves  more  impudently 
than  here. 

At  last  the  man  of  guile  conceded  all  that  Carlstadt  argued  for, 
although  he  had  violently  opposed  it,  and  agreed  with  him  in  all,  boast- 
ing that  he  had  brought  Carlstadt  over  to  his  opinion.  He  abandoned 
Scotus  and  the  Scotists,  Capreolus  and  the  Thomists,  saying  that  the 
schoolmen  had  thought  and  taught  the  same  as  Carlstadt.  Then  and 
there  fell  Scotus  and  Capreolus  with  their  respective  schools ! 

The  next  week  he  debated  with  me  —  at  first  sharply  about  the 
primacy  of  the  Pope.  His,  strength  lay  in  the  words,  "thou  art  Peter," 
"feed  my  sheep,"  "follow  thou  me,"  and  "strengthen  thy  brethren," 
together  with  a  lot  of  quotations  from  the  Fathers.  (You  will  soon  see 
what  I  answered.)  Then,  resting  his  whole  weight  on  the  Council  of 
Constance,  which  had  condemned  the  assertion  of  Huss  that  the  papacy 
was  dependent  on  the  Emperor,  he  went  to  the  extreme  length  of  say- 
ing that  it  bore  sway  by  divine  right.  Thereupon,  as  if  entering  the 
arena,  he  cast  the  Bohemians  in  my  teeth,  and  charged  me  with  being 
an  open  heretic  and  an  ally  of  the  Hussites.  For  the  sophist  is  no  less 
insolent  than  rash.  These  charges  tickled  the  Leipsic  audience  more 
than  the  debate  itself. 

In  rebuttal  I  pointed  to  the  Greeks  for  a  thousand  years,  and  to  the 
ancient  Fathers  who  had  not  been  under  the  sway  of  the  Roman  pon- 
tiff to  whom  I  did  not  deny  a  precedence  in  honor.  Then  I  discussed 
the  authority  of  a  council.  I  said  openly  that  some  articles  had  been 
wrongly  condemned  [so.  by  the  Council  of  Constance],  as  they  had  been 
taught  in  the  plainest  words  by  Paul,  Augustine,  and  even  Christ  him- 
self. At  this  point  the  reptile  swelled  up,  painted  my  crime  in  the 
darkest  colors,  and  almost  drove  the  audience  wild  with  his  rhetoric. 


At  length  I  proved  from  the  words  of  that  council  that  not  all  the 
articles  there  condemned  were  heretical  and  erroneous,  so  that  his 
mode  of  proof  accomplished  nothing.  And  thus  the  matter  rested. 
j  The  third  week  we  debated  penance,  purgatory,  indulgences,  and  the 
power  of  a  priest  to  absolve.  For  he  did  not  care  about  his  dispute  with 
Carlstadt,  but  only  that  with  me.  Indulgences  fell  through  completely 
and  he  agreed  to  almost  all  I  said,  so  that  their  use  was  turned  to 
scorn  and  mockery.  He  hoped  this  would  be  the  subject  of  a  future 
debate  with  me,  as  he  said  in  public,  that  people  might  understand 
that  he  made  no  great  matter  of  indulgences.  He  is  said  to  have 
granted  that  had  I  not  disputed  the  power  of  the  Pope  he  would  have 
agreed  with  me  easily  on  all  points.  He  even  confessed  to  Carlstadt : 
"  If  I  could  only  agree  with  Luther  as  much  as  I  do  with  you,  I 
would  go  home  with  him  at  once."  The  man  is  fickle  and  subtle,  ready 
to  do  anything.  He  who  once  said  to  Carlstadt  that  the  schoolmen 
taught  the  same  as  he,  said  to  me  that  Gregory  of  Rimini  was  the  only 
one  who  supported  me  against  all  others.  Thus  he  thinks  it  no  fault  to 
assert  and  deny  the  same  thing  at  different  times.  Nor  do  the  men  of 
Leipsic  grasp  this,  so  great  is  their  stupidity.  And  what  is  still  more 
monstrous,  he  asserts  one  thing  in  the  academy  and  another  in  the 
church  to  the  people.  Asked  by  Carlstadt  why  he  did  this,  the  man 
shamelessly  replied  that  the  people  ought  not  to  be  taught  points  on 
which  there  was  doubt. 

My  part  thus  ended,  he  debated  the  last  three  days  with  Carlstadt, 
agreeing  to  and  yielding  all :  that  spontaneous  action  is  sin  ;  that  free 
will  without  grace  can  do  nothing  but  sin ;  that  there  is  sin  in  every 
[natural]  good  work  ;  that  it  is  only  grace  which  enables  a  man  to  do 
what  he  can  for  the  Disposer  of  grace ;  —  all  of  which  the  schoolmen 
deny.  So  in  the  whole  debate  he  treated  nothing  as  it  deserved  except 
my  thirteenth  x  proposition.  In  the  mean  time  he  congratulates  him- 
self, triumphs  and  reigns,  but  only  until  we  shall  have  published  our 
side.  As  the  debate  turned  out  badly,  I  shall  draw  up  additional  pro- 

The  citizens  of  Leipsic  never  greeted  us  nor  visited  us,  but  acted 
like  the  bitterest  enemies  ;  but  Eck  they  followed  and  clung  to  and 
invited  to  dinners  in  their  houses  and  gave  him  a  robe  and  a  chamois- 
hair  gown.  They  escorted  him  around  on  horseback;  in  fact  they 
tried  everything  they  could  think  of  to  insult  us.  Moreover,  they  per- 
suaded Caesar  Pflug  and  Duke  George  to  let  these  things  pass.  They 

1  That  about  the  supremacy  of  the  Pope  quoted  above  as  the  twelfth.  The 
number  had  been  changed  by  the  interpolation  of  an  additional  proposition. 


did  give  us  one  thing,  the  customary  present  of  wine,  which  perhaps  it 
would  not  have  been  safe  for  them  to  omit.  The  few  who  favored  us 
came  to  us  clandestinely,  but  Dr.  Stromer  of  Auerbach,  a  man  of  up- 
right mind,  invited  us  and  so  did  Professor  Pistorius.  Duke  George 
himself  invited  three  of  us  together.  Likewise  the  most  illustrious  Duke 
summoned  me  by  myself  and  talked  much  with  me  about  my  writings, 
especially  that  on  the  Lord's  Prayer,  and  mentioned  that  the  Huss- 
ites expected  much  from  me,  and  that  I  had  raised  doubts  in  many 
consciences  about  the  Lord's  Prayer,  so  that  many  complained  that 
they  would  not  be  able  to  say  one  paternoster  in  four  days  if  they 
thought  they  ought  to  believe  me,  and  much  else  to  the  same  effect.  Nor 
was  I  so  stupid  as  not  to  know  the  difference  between  a  fife  and  a  f —  ;  I 
regretted  that  the  excellent  and  pious  prince  should  represent  and  com- 
ply with  the  feelings  of  others  when  I  saw  he  was  so  clever  in  speaking 
like  a  prince  about  his  own. 

The  last  exhibition  of  hatred  was  this  :  when  on  the  day  of  St.  Peter 
and  St.  Paul  [June  29]  I  was  asked  by  our  rector,  the  Duke  of  Pomer- 
ania,  to  read  the  gospel  in  the  chapel  of  the  castle,  suddenly  the 
report  of  my  preaching  filled  the  city,  and  such  a  vast  concourse  of 
men  and  women  came  to  hear  me  that  I  was  compelled  to  preach  in 
the  debating-hall,  with  all  the  professors  and  other  hostile  listeners 
sitting  around.  The  gospel  for  the  day  [Matthew  xvi,  13-19]  clearly 
takes  in  the  subject  of  both  debates,  and  so  I  was  forced  to  expound 
the  substance  of  the  disputations  to  all,  to  the  great  annoyance  of 

Stirred  up  by  this,  Eck  preached  four  times  thereafter  in  different 
churches,  reviling  me  and  attacking  all  I  had  said.  Thus  those  would- 
be  theologians  bade  him  do.  But  /  was  not  allowed  to  preach  again, 
although  many  asked  it.  I  was  only  to  be  accused  and  criminated  with- 
out a  chance  to  defend  myself.  They  acted  on  the  same  principle  in 
the  debate,  so  that  Eck,  although  in  the  negative,  had  the  last  word, 
which  I  could  not  refute. 

When  Caesar  Pflug  heard  that  I  had  preached  (for  he  was  not  then 
present),  he  said,  "I  wish  Dr.  Luther  would  save  his  sermons  for 
Wittenberg."  In  short,  I  have  known  hatred  before,  but  never  more 
shameless  nor  more  impudent. 

Here  you  have  the  whole  tragedy.  Dr.  Planitz  will  tell  you  the  rest, 
for  he  was  present  in  person.  Because  Eck  and  Leipsic  sought  their 
own  glory  and  not  the  truth,  it  is  no  wonder  that  they  began  badly  and 
ended  worse.  For  whereas  we  hoped  to  make  peace  between  Witten- 
berg and  Leipsic,  they  acted  so  odiously  that  I  fear  it  will  rather  seem 


that  discord  and  mutual  dislike  are  now  firstborn.  I,  who  try  to  bridle 
my  impetuosity,  am  not  able  to  banish  all  dislike  of  them,  because  I 
am  flesh  and  their  impudent  hatred  and  malignant  injustice  were  over- 
bearing in  so  sacred  and  divine  a  cause. 

Farewell  and  commend  me  to  the  most  illustrious  Elector.  .  .  . 


Martin  Luther. 

It  is  plain  from  this  letter  that  the  writer  was  smarting  under 
the  sense  of  outrage.  If  he  had  not  been  defeated,  he  had  been 
out-manoeuvred.  Such  debates,  of  course,  decide  nothing.  Each 
party  remained  strengthened  in  its  own  opinion.  In  this  case, 
too,  the  universities,  to  whom  the  decision  was  submitted,  put 
off  giving  it  for  one  reason  or  another. 

Yet  the  disputation  at  Leipsic  was  a  turning-point.  It  showed 
that  the  Wittenberg  monk  was  no  longer  in  a  position  where 
reconciliation  with  the  Church  was  possible.  In  the  train  of  the 
combat  followed  a  cloud  of  polemics,  half  the  Germans  who 
could  write  taking  sides  against  the  new  leader,  and  the  other 
half  for  him.  As  this  bickering  —  for  that  is  what  most  of  it 
was  —  left  little  permanent  result,  it  need  not  find  a  large  place 
in  the  biography  of  Luther,  even  though  he  took  an  active  part 
in  the  controversy. 

As  he  has  spoken  in  a  recent  letter  of  the  danger  of  assassina- 
tion, it  is  interesting  to  see  what  foundations  his  suspicions 
had.  The  peril  was  probably  very  slight,  but  was  given  some 
color  by  the  visit  of  suspicious  strangers,  one  of  whom  he  de- 
scribed, many  years  later,  as  follows :  — 

A  man  came  to  me  in  1519,  with  whom  I  shook  hands,  and  whom 
I  took  home  with  me.  He  said :  "  Dear  Doctor,  it  surprises  me  that 
you  so  readily  shake  hands  with  strangers ;  are  you  not  afraid  of  being 
shot  ?  I  am  alone  with  you."  I  replied  :  "  If  you  killed  me,  you  would 
die,  too."  "  In  that  case,"  said  he,  "  the  Pope  would  make  me  a  saint 
and  you  a  heretic."  When  I  heard  that,  I  called  in  Sieberger  [the 
monastery  servant],  after  which  he  soon  left  town. 


THE  PATRIOT.  1519-20 

The  revolt  from  Rome  was  by  no  means  a  purely  religious 
phenomenon.  Its  enormous  and  immediate  success  can  only  be 
explained  by  the  great  variety  of  motives  to  which  it  appealed. 
It  promised  to  the  Christian  a  purer  faith ;  to  the  patriotic  Ger- 
man a  stronger  country  freed  from  the  foreign  yoke ;  to  the 
lower  classes  a  millennium  of  universal  brotherhood,  equality 
and  freedom.  The  hopes  of  all  parties  were  not  destined  to  be 
realized,  some  of  them  suffered  a  bitter  disappointment ;  but  all 
were  willing  to  join  in  the  common  movement  for  their  special 
ends,  and  it  was  this  union  and  interaction  of  forces  which  pro- 
duced that  great  revolution  usually  known  as  the  Reformation. 
And  of  these  stirring  times  Luther  was  the  heart  and  soul. 
During  the  years  1519-1523  especially,  it  almost  seemed  as 
if  he  were  lifted  above  himself  and  transcended  the  limits  of 
his  own  personality.  Of  this  time  Professor  Harnack  has  well 
said :  — 

For  a  period  —  it  was  only  for  a  few  years  —  it  seemed  as  if  his 
spirit  would  attract  to  itself  and  mould  into  a  wonderful  unity  all  that 
the  time  had  of  living  vigor  in  it ;  as  if  to  him,  as  to  no  one  before,  the 
power  had  been  given  to  make  his  personality  the  spiritual  centre 
of  the  nation,  and  to  summon  his  century  into  the  lists,  armed  with 
every  weapon. 

Luther  himself  was  astonished  at  the  almost  universal  re- 
sponse to  his  appeal.  The  course  of  events  reacted  on  him, 
hurrying  him  along  from  a  position  of  humble  protest  to  the 
leadership  of  all  the  revolutionary  forces  of  the  time. '  Every 
occurrence  carried  him  on  like  a  wave  and  left  him  far  in  ad- 
vance of  his  previous  station.  Each  book  he  read,  each  friend 
he  made,  offered  a  powerful  stimulus  to  his  development.  His 
progress,  accurately  traceable  in  his  letters  and  other  writings, 
is  a  study  of  absorbing  interest. 


His  best  friend  and  ablest  lieutenant,  at  this  time  as  later, 
was  Philip  Melanchthon,  whom  he  first  learned  to  know  in  the 
summer  of  1518.  When  called  in  this  year  to  teach  Greek  at 
the  University  of  Wittenberg,  Melanchthon  was  not  yet  twenty- 
one.  The  precocious  youth,  who  had  entered  Heidelberg  at 
thirteen  and  had  taken  the  degree  of  bachelor  at  fifteen,  and 
of  master  one  year  later,  began  at  once  to  lecture  on  and  to  edit 
the  classics.  These  studies  were  his  passion,  though  he  later 
won  greater  distinction  in  the  field  of  divinity.  He  was  a  per- 
fect contrast  to  Luther,  a  scholar  and  pedagogue  rather  than  a 
man  of  action,  a  peacemaker  rather  than  a  warrior.  The  rela- 
tions of  the  two  men  were  always  uncommonly  close.  Though 
the  younger  occasionally  found  the  support  given  him  by  the 
elder  and  more  robust  irksome,  he  leaned  upon  it,  and  more  than 
once  found  that  when  deprived  of  it  he  was  unable  to  stand 
alone.  Melanchthon  was  the  disciple  whom  Luther  loved,  and, 
as  can  be  seen  from  this  extract  of  a  letter  to  Spalatin  written 
a  few  days  after  the  young  scholar's  advent  (August  31,  1518), 
loved  at  first  sight :  — 

Doubt  not  that  we  have  done  all  and  shall  do  all  you  recommend 
about  Philip  Melanchthon.  He  delivered  an  oration  the  fourth  day 
after  he  came,  in  the  purest  and  most  learned  style,  by  which  he  won 
the  thanks  and  admiration  of  all,  so  that  you  need  not  worry  about 
commending  him  to  us.  We  have  quickly  abandoned  the  opinion 
we  formed  from  his  small  stature  and  homeliness,  and  now  rejoice 
and  wonder  at  his  real  worth,  and  thank  our  most  illustrious  Elector 
and  your  good  offices,  too,  for  giving  him  to  us.  Indeed,  it  is  you 
who  must  rather  study  to  put  his  merits  in  a  proper  light  to  our  sover- 
eign. While  Philip  is  alive,  I  desire  no  other  Greek  teacher.  I  only 
fear  that  perhaps  his  delicate  health  cannot  well  endure  the  life  in 
our  parts,  and  besides,  I  hear  that  his  salary  is  so  small  that  the  boast- 
ful University  of  Leipsic  hopes  to  get  him  away  from  us  soon.  Indeed 
he  was  galled  by  them  before  he  came  to  us.  I  suspect  (and  not  I 
alone)  that  Pf effinger *  will  prove  true  to  his  custom  in  this  matter 
also,  and  be  too  faithful  a  guardian  of  the  Elector's  purse.  And  so, 
dear  Spalatin,  if  I  may  speak  frankly,  as  with  a  good  friend,  take 
care  not  to  despise  Melanchthon  for  his  looks  and  his  tender  age,  for 
the  man  is  worthy  of  all  honor.  I  would  not  have  our  university  want- 
1  The  treasurer  of  Electoral  Saxony :  cf .  supra,  p.  34. 


ing  in  those  humane  studies,  the  lack  of  which  gives  our  rivals  some 
excuse  for  making  us  a  byword. 

From  this  time  on  Luther's  letters  are  full  of  allusions  to 
him  "  who  has  almost  every  virtue  known  to  man  and  yet  is 
my  dear  and  intimate  friend."  Shortly  after  the  Leipsic  debate 
Melanchthon  published  some  theses  denying  the  doctrine  of 
transubstantiation  —  an  important  contribution  to  the  thought 
of  Luther,  who  speaks  of  them  and  their  author  in  a  letter  to 
Staupitz,  October  3,  1519 :  — 

You  have  seen  Philip's  theses  by  this  time  —  somewhat  bold,  to  be 
sure,  but  true.  His  solution  of  the  problem  naturally  would  excite  our 
admiration  as  it  has.  If  Christ  please,  Melanchthon  will  make  many 
Luthers  and  a  most  powerful  enemy  of  the  devil  and  of  scholasticism, 
for  he  knows  both  the  trumpery  of  the  world  and  the  rock  of  Christ, 
therefore  shall  he  be  mighty. 

Melanchthon's  fundamental  ideas  were  drawn  from  Luther's 
inexhaustible  mine  of  thought,  but  he  developed,  clarified,  and 
systematized  them,  and  thus  repaid  the  debt  he  had  contracted. 
Another  powerful  influence  towards  the  formation  of  the  new 
system  of  theology  in  Luther's  mind  was  found  in  the  writings 
of  John  Huss.  The  German  reformer  had  read  one  of  them 
during  the  first  years  in  the  cloister,  and  had  wondered  how  a 
heretic  could  speak  so  Christianly,  but  thinking  that  the  par- 
ticular book  must  have  been  composed  before  the  apostasj^,  he 
shut  it  up  and  forgot  it.  Later  in  preparing  for  the  Leipsic 
debate,  he  had  read  enough  of  the  history  of  the  Council  of 
Constance,  where  Huss  was  condemned,  to  believe  that  many 
of  the  latter's  propositions  were  evangelic  and  orthodox,  and  he 
had  flatly  declared  his  conviction  of  this  at  the  encounter  with 
Eck.  Several  Hussites,  having  formed  hopes  in  the  new  re- 
former destined  to  be  realized,  had  gathered  at  this  great  event, 
and  two  of  the  most  distinguished  of  them  had  written  him  and 
sent  one  of  Huss's  works.  Luther  did  not  have  time  to  read 
it  until  early  in  1520.  He  then  first  recognized  that  in  many 
things  the  Bohemian  had  been  his  predecessor,  and  he  did  not 
hesitate  to  proclaim  himself  the  condemned  heretic's  disciple. 
How  deep  and  fervent  was  his  admiration  can  best  be  gathered 
from  his  own  words :  — 



(Wittenberg,  February,  1520.1) 
.  .  .  Having  consulted  with  friends  about  the  Elector's  advice,  I  find 
I  cannot,  without  peril  to  my  conscience,  offer  peace  of  my  own  ac- 
cord. I  have  done  enough  that  way  hitherto,  and  met  no  response  to 
my  efforts  ;  I  am  always  treated  with  force  when  it  comes  to  negotia- 
tion, and  cannot  relax  my  whole  strength  as  long  as  Eck  is  clamoring : 
I  am  obliged  to  commend  the  cause  to  God  and  follow  him  loyally, 
having  committed  my  ship  to  the  winds  and  waves.  I  can  only  pray 
for  God's  mercy.  I  have  an  idea  that  a  revolution  is  about  to  take 
place  unless  God  withhold  Satan.  I  have  seen  the  devil's  artful  plans 
for  my  perdition  and  for  that  of  many.  What  will  you  ?  The  Word 
of  God  can  never  be  advanced  without  whirlwind,  tumult,  and  danger. 
The  Word  is  of  infinite  majesty,  it  is  wonderful  in  the  heights  and  in 
the  depths ;  as  the  prophet  says :  "  It  slew  the  fattest  of  them  and 
smote  down  the  chosen  men  of  Israel."  One  must  either  despair  of 
peace  and  tranquillity  or  else  deny  the  Word.  War  is  of  the  Lord  who 
did  not  come  to  send  peace.  Take  care  not  to  hope  that  the  cause  of 
Christ  can  be  advanced  in  the  world  peacefully  and  sweetly,  since  you 
see  the  battle  has  been  waged  with  his  own  blood  and  that  of  the 
martyrs.  I  have  hitherto  taught  and  held  all  the  opinions  of  John 
Huss  unawares;  so  did  John  Staupitz;  in  short,  we  are  all  Hussites 
without  knowing  it.  Paul  and  Augustine  are  Hussites  to  a  word.  Be- 
hold the  horror  which  I  have  discovered  without  any  Bohemian  teacher 
or  leader :  I  know  not  what  to  think  for  astonishment  when  I  see  such 
terrible  judgments  of  God  on  mankind  that  the  plain  gospel  truth  has 
been  publicly  burned  and  considered  damnable  for  a  hundred  years, 
and  no  one  to  assert  it !  Woe  to  the  land ! 


Martin  Luther. 

Next  to  his  studies  in  Huss  and  in  the  Canon  Law,  Luther's 
eyes  were  opened  to  the  iniquities  of  Rome  by  a  work  of 
Lorenzo  Valla,  one  of  the  most  brilliant  of  the  fifteenth  cen- 
tury humanists,  the  proof  that  the  Donation  of  Constantine  was 
a  forgery.  This  celebrated  document,  composed  in  the  ninth 
century,  purported  to  be  a  deed  drawn  up  by  tl^e  Emperor 

1  For  this  date,  cf .  Enders,  ii,  345.  Kohler  argues  for  a  later  date ;  cf.  Luther 
und  die  Kirchengeschichte  (Erlangen,  1900),  i,  198. 


Constantine  in  the  fourth  century,  presenting  the  Pope  with 
central  Italy,  and  giving  him  a  general  overlordship  of  the 
Western  world.  The  forgery  had  been  received  for  six  uncritical 
centuries  as  authentic  and  had  become  one  of  the  corner-stones 
of  the  papal  pretensions,  and  of  the  Canon  Law.  Luther  wrote  of 
it,  February  24,  1520,  to  his  friend  Spalatin  as  follows  :  — 

I  have  at  hand  Lorenzo  Valla's  proof  (edited  by  Hutten)  that  the 
Donation  of  Constantine  is  a  forgery.  Good  heavens  !  what  darkness 
and  wickedness  is  at  Rome  !  You  wonder  at  the  judgment  of  God 
that  such  unauthentic,  crass,  impudent  lies  not  only  lived  but  prevailed 
for  so  many  centuries,  that  they  were  incorporated  in  the  Canon  Law, 
and  (that  no  degree  of  horror  might  be  wanting)  that  they  became  as 
articles  of  faith.  I  am  in  such  a  passion  that  I  scarcely  doubt  that  the 
Pope  is  the  Antichrist  expected  by  the  world,  so  closely  do  their  acts, 
lives,  sayings,  and  laws  agree.  But  more  of  this  when  I  see  you.  If 
you  have  not  yet  seen  the  book,  I  shall  take  care  that  you  read  it. 

Ulrich  von  Hutten,  first  mentioned  by  Luther  in  the  last 
letter,  was  soon  to  become  one  of  his  strongest  supporters  and 
allies.  A  knight  of  old  Franconian  family,  combining  consid- 
erable literary  ability  with  fiery  ambition,  he  devoted  his  life 
to  the  cause  of  patriotism  and  the  resistance  of  ecclesiastical 
oppression.  He  and  his  friend  Franz  von  Sickingen,  whose  large 
resources  and  wide  connections  made  him  feared  even  by  the 
greater  princes,  were  the  leaders  of  the  party  of  the  knights 
whose  programme  was  the  restoration  of  German  national  pre- 
stige under  the  leadership  of  their  order.  At  first  the  national- 
ists regarded  Luther  merely  as  a  squabbling  monk,  but  by 
1520  they  read  the  sign  of  the  times  more  plainly,  and  saw 
what  an  immense  impulse  would  be  given  to  the  cause  of  Ger- 
man freedom  by  uniting  it  with  the  cause  of  spiritual  emancipa- 
tion. Hutten  had  only  one  fear — that  Luther  would  compromise 
with  or  else  be  crushed  by  the  foreign  oppressor,  and  wrote 
urging  him  to  stand  fast  and  promising  support :  — 


Mayknce,  June  4,  1520. 
Long  live  liberty!    If  anything  hinders  you  from  completing  what 
you  have  begun  I  shall  mourn  as  a  spiritual  kinsman  and  friend. 


Christ  be  with  us,  as  we  bring  his  teachings  again  to  light,  you  more 
happily,  but  I  at  least  according  to  my  powers.  May  all  be  like-minded 
with  us  or  soon  return  to  the  right  way.  It  is  said  that  you  are  under 
the  ban  of  the  Church.  If  this  is  so,  how  great  are  you,  Luther,  how 
great !  .  .  .  But  beware !  You  see  that  if  you  fall  it  will  be  a  great 
injury  to  the  State,  but  I  know  from  your  actions  that  you  are  resolved 
to  die  rather  than  merely  live.  ...  Be  strong !  But  why  should  I 
admonish  you  when  I  have  no  need  ?  In  any  event  you  have  a  sup- 
porter in  me  and  may  confide  your  plans  to  me.  Let  us  defend  the 
common  freedom  and  liberty  of  our  long  enslaved  fatherland  !  We 
have  God  on  our  side ;  if  he  be  for  us,  who  can  be  against  us  ?  .  .  . 
Your  letters  will  reach  me  in  Brabant.  Write  me  there  and  farewell 
in  Christ.  Salute  Melanchthon  and  Fach  and  all  our  friends,  and  fare- 
well again. 

Shortly  after  the  arrival  of  this  letter  came  one  from  an- 
other leader  of  the  party,  Sylvester  von  Schaumburg,  offering 
protection  in  case  of  need.  It  seemed  to  Luther  that  this  sup- 
port came  in  the  nick  of  time.  Hutten  had  been  correctly  in- 
formed that  the  bull  against  the  heresiarch  had  been  drawn  up 
at  Rome.  Cardinal  Riario,  a  friend  of  Erasmus  and  a  moderate, 
had  written  the  Elector  from  that  city  on  May  20,  urging  him 
as  he  valued  his  safety  to  "  make  that  man  recant."  The  letter 
only  reached  the  Elector  on  July  6,  and  was  promptly  forwarded 
to  Wittenberg.   Luther's  answer  is  eloquent  of  his  attitude :  — 


Wittenberg,  July  10,  1520. 

...  I  almost  wish  that  famous  bull  would  come  from  Rome  to 
rage  against  my  doctrine.  .  .  . 

I  send  the  letter  of  the  Franconian  knight,  Sylvester  von  Schaum- 
burg,  and  unless  it  is  too  much  trouble  I  wish  the  Elector  would  com- 
municate its  contents  to  Cardinal  Riario,  that  they  may  know  in  Rome 
that  even  if  they  thrust  me  out  of  Wittenberg  with  their  furies  they 
will  only  make  matters  worse,  since  there  are  now  some  not  only  in 
Bohemia  but  in  the  heart  of  Germany  who  are  able  and  willing  to  re- 
ceive me  in  spite  of  the  thunders  of  the  hostile  Curia. 

In  this  lies  their  danger  ;  for  were  I  saved  by  those  protectors  I 
should  grow  more  terrible  to  the  Romanists  than  I  am  now  while 
publicly  teaching  under  the  Elector's  government.    Doubtless  this  will 


happen  unless  God  interpose.  For  hitherto  I  have  given  in  on  many- 
points,  even  when  enraged,  out  of  respect  to  my  sovereign,  but  then 
there  would  surely  be  no  need  to  consult  his  wishes.  So  let  them  know 
that  they  owe  it  neither  to  my  moderation  nor  to  the  success  of  their 
own  tyranny,  but  to  the  name  and  authority  of  the  Elector,  and  to  my 
respect  for  the  University  of  Wittenberg,  that  I  have  proceeded  no 
further  against  them. 

My  die  is  cast ;  I  despise  the  fury  and  favor  of  Rome ;  I  will  never 
be  reconciled  to  them  nor  commune  with  them.  Let  them  condemn 
and  burn  my  books.  On  my  side,  unless  all  the  fire  goes  out,  I  will 
condemn  and  publicly  burn  the  whole  papal  law,  that  slough  of 
heresies.  The  humility  I  have  hitherto  shown  all  in  vain  shall  have  an 
end,  lest  it  still  further  puff  up  the  enemies  of  the  Gospel. 

The  more  I  think  of  Cardinal  Riario's  letter  the  more  I  despise  it. 
I  see  they  write  with  cowardly  fear  and  a  bad  conscience,  trying  to 
put  on  a  ferocious  mien  with  the  last  gasp.  They  try  to  protect  their 
folly  by  force,  but  they  fear  they  will  not  succeed  as  happily  as  they 
have  in  times  past.  But  I  doubt  not  that  the  Lord  will  accomplish 
his  purpose  through  me  (though  I  am  a  foul  sinner)  or  through  an- 


Martin  Luther,  Augustinian. 




A  CHRISTIAN  MAN.    1520. 

The  art  of  printing  with  movable  types  was  invented  about 
1450  at  Mayence,  and  spread  with  such  marvellous  rapidity 
that  before  the  end  of  the  century  every  European  country 
from  Ireland  to  Turkey,  east  and  west,  and  from  Norway  to 
Italy,  north  and  south,  had  its  own  presses.  The  powerful 
stimulus  to  progress  furnished  by  this  discovery  has  often  been 
pointed  out ;  this  mighty  engine  for  disseminating  truth  made 
accessible  to  almost  all  what  had  before  been  the  property  of 
comparatively  few.  The  success  of  the  Reformation,  as  of  all 
subsequent  democratic  and  progressive  movements,  may  be 
largely  attributed  to  it. 

It  is  safe  to  say  that  Martin  Luther  was  the  first  man  to 
make  full  use  of  the  press  as  an  agent  for  appealing  to  public 
opinion.  By  means  of  it  he  won  the  support  of  a  majority  of  his 
countrymen  as  well  as  of  many  foreigners  who  could  read  Latin. 
There  were,  of  course,  no  newspapers,  or  other  periodicals,  but 
to  supply  their  want  quantities  of  short  pamphlets,  and  even  of 
letters,  were  poured  forth  from  the  printing-houses  and  eagerly 
bought  and  read.  A  vast  number  of  these  were  written  by 
Luther,  a  born  pamphleteer,  who  may  be  said  with  some  truth 
to  have  created  the  German  book  trade,  for  before  he  began  to 
write,  a  majority  of  books  printed  in  Germany  were  Latin,  but 
soon  afterwards  the  scale  turned  rapidly  and  decisively  in  favor 
of  German.  The  exact  figures  will  bring  home  the  vivifying 
effect  of  the  new  spirit.  In  1518  there  were  only  150  German 
works  published,  in  1519  the  number  rose  to  260,  in  1520  to 
570,  in  1521  to  620,  in  1522  to  680,  in  1523  to  935,  and  in  1524 
to  990.  In  five  years  the  output  increased  more  than  sixfold. 

Luther  was  an  extremely  prolific  author.  His  works,  in  num- 


ber  more  than  four  hundred,  fill  more  than  a  hundred  volumes. 
He  was  also  an  extremely  popular  author.  On  February  14, 
1519,  Froben,  the  great  Basel  publisher,  wrote  him  that  his 
works  were  already  exported  to  France,  Spain,  Italy,  the  Low 
Countries,  and  England,  as  well  as  to  all  parts  of  the  Empire. 
The  number  of  the  editions  was  legion.  The  letters  of  the 
time  are  full  of  references  to  the  latest  publications  of  the 
Keformer.  On  November  1,  1520,  for  example,  Glarean  writes 
Zwingli  from  Paris  that  no  books  are  bought  more  quickly  than 
Luther's,  and  that  at  the  last  Frankfort  fair  (the  great  book 
mart  of  Germany  held  in  the  spring  of  every  year)  fourteen 
hundred  copies  of  his  works  had  been  sold.  This  was  before 
Luther  had  written  any  of  his  greatest  works. 

At  first,  as  we  have  seen,  the  Wittenberg  professor  devoted 
himself  chiefly  to  commentaries  on  Scriptures,  of  which  the 
lectures  on  Romans  and  Galatians  have  already  been  noticed. 
During  the  years  1519-21  he  again  took  up  the  Psalms  and  pub- 
lished in  several  parts  a  stout  commentary  on  the  first  twenty- 
one.  These  Operationes  in  Psalmos,  as  they  were  called,  won 
the  admiration  of  Erasmus.  They  did  not  satisfy  the  author, 
however,  who  feared  that  being  in  Latin  they  would  not  edify 
the  common  people.  While  he  was  lecturing  on  them  he  wrote 
a  letter  on  the  subject,  from  which,  as  it  is  almost  unknown, 
even  to  scholars,  we  will  translate  a  portion,  including  the 
observations  on  Melanchthon's  work : *  — 


Wittenberg,  July  30  (1520). 
.  .  .  Philip  is  theologizing  most  happily,  lecturing,  as  a  first  attempt, 
and  yet  with  incredible  success  to  almost  five  hundred  auditors  on 
Paul's  Epistle  to  the  Romans.  ...  I  do  not  think  that  for  a  thousand 
years  Holy  Scripture  has  been  treated  with  the  same  simplicity  and 
clearness,  for  his  talent  is  next  that  of  the  apostolic  age.  ...  I  lose 
these  years  of  mine  in  unhappy  wars  and  would  like  all  my  works  to 
perish,  lest  they  should  become  obstacles  to  pure  theology  and  better 
geniuses,  although  to-day  I  expound  my  philosophy  without  slaughter 
and  blood.  It  is  my  fate  that  all  evil  beasts  attack  me  alone,  all  seek- 
1  For  text  of  this  letter  see  Appendix  in. 


ing  to  win  the  laurel  and  palm  from  me.  God  grant  that  I  may  be 
David  pouring  out  blood,  but  that  Melanchthon  may  be  Solomon  reign- 
ing in  peace.  Amen.  .  .  . 

I  have  completed  my  bulky  commentary  on  the  Psalms  to  the 
xvnith,  and  have  almost  begun  to  be  sorry  for  doing  it,  not  on  ac- 
count of  the  labor,  but  because  these  works  are  so  little  popular  and  do 
not  capture  many,  nor  have  I  yet  decided  whether  to  publish  any  more 
(for  it  is  the  food  of  the  perfect),  and  not  rather  treatises  more  easy 
to  be  understood.  .  .  . 

Luther's  sermons  were  often  published  shortly  after  their 
delivery,  especially  if  they  had  to  do  with  some  question  of  the 
day.  Such  was  the  sermon  on  the  ban  already  mentioned  (1518), 
and  such  was  the  sermon  on  the  Lord's  Supper  advocating  the 
participation  of  the  laity  in  the  cup.  This  excited  an  outcry 
from  the  preacher's  enemies,  especially  Duke  George  and  the 
Bishop  of  Merseburg.  Consequently  Luther  published  an  ex- 
planation, which  was  considerably  more  radical  than  the  original 
homily :  — 

I  published  a  sermon  on  the  venerable  sacrament  of  the  altar  [he 
begins],  in  which  I  said  that  it  seemed  good  that  both  bread  and  wine 
should  be  given  to  any  one  that  desired  it.  Here  upon  my  dear  friends, 
who  thirsted  after  my  blood,  thought  they  had  me  in  a  sack,  and 
bawled  out :  "  We  have  won !  " 

Another  work  of  1519  was  the  Tesseradecas,  or  Fourteen, 
written  to  console  the  sick  elector.  The  author  classifies  all 
goods  and  ills  in  seven  most  original  categories :  those  which 
are  over,  under,  before,  behind,  on  the  right,  on  the  left,  and 
within  one. 

Not  many  months  after  completing  this,  Luther  set  his  hand 
to  a  little  treatise  on  ethics,  entitled  Good  Works.  These  are 
taken  up  in  the  order  of  the  Ten  Commandments,  the  first  and 
greatest  duty  being  faith. 

Of  all  Luther's  works  the  most  eminent,  next  to  his  transla- 
tion of  the  Bible,  are  three  pamphlets  written  in  the  latter  half 
of  1520 :  To  the  Christian  Nobility  of  the  German  Nation  on 
the  Improvement  of  the  Christian  Estate,  A  Prelude  on  the 
Babylonian  Captivity  of  the  Church,  and  The  Freedom  of  a 


The  first  of  these  is  a  rousing  appeal  to  his  countrymen  to 
right  the  many  wrongs  under  which  Germany  suffers,  especially 
such  as  she  endures  from  Roman  tyranny.  It  was  written  under 
the  influence  of  the  patriots,  with  whom  the  Reformer  now  made 
common  cause.  The  inspiration  to  write  came  largely  from  them, 
and  the  sources  of  much  in  the  work  are  found  in  the  writings 
of  Hutten  and  Crotus  Rubeanus,  as  well  as  in  Erasmus'  Dia- 
logue of  St.  Peter  and  Julius  II.1  Many  things  were  also  taken 
from  private  letters  and  personal  conversations  with  friends 
who  had  been  in  Rome,  especially  a  Dr.  John  von  Wick,  who 
stopped  at  Wittenberg  in  June,  1520,  on  his  way  from  Italy  to 
Hamburg.  A  far  more  important  source  is  found  in  the  Griev- 
ances of  the  German  Nation  presented  at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg 
in  1518.  But  what  Luther  borrowed  he  made  his  own.  He  did 
not  need  Hutten  to  make  him  a  patriot  nor  the  Grievances  to 
tell  him  what  was  rotten  in  the  Empire.  The  book,  like  its 
author's  character,  in  which  so  many  influences  had  been  at 
work,  was  not  a  mere  aggregate  of  certain  external  elements, 
but  something  new  and  original,  fused  by  genius  into  a  living 
organism.  It  is  a  work  of  world-wide  importance,  at  once  pro- 
phesying and  moulding  the  future. 

Luther  dedicated  the  book  to  his  colleague  in  the  university, 
Nicholas  von  Amsdorf,  in  a  stirring  preface  dated  June  23, 
1520 :  — 

God's  grace  and  peace.  Honorable,  worthy,  dear  friend !  The  time 
to  keep  silence  is  past  and  the  time  to  speak  has  come,  as  Ecclesiastes 
says.  I  have,  according  to  our  plan,  brought  together  some  proposi- 
tions on  the  improvement  of  the  Christian  estate,  and  have  addressed 
them  to  the  Christian  Nobility  of  the  German  Nation,  to  see  whether 
God  will  help  his  Church  through  the  laity,  since  the  clergy,  to  whom 
such  matters  rather  belong,  has  become  entirely  heedless  of  them.  I  am 
sending  them  to  you,  worthy  sir,  to  correct,  and,  at  need,  to  improve. 
I  am  well  aware  that  people  will  not  let  me  escape  unblamed  for  hav- 
ing esteemed  myself  too  highly,  in  that  I,  a  poor,  despised  man,  dare 
to  address  such  great  and  noble  persons  on  such  important  affairs,  as 
though  there  were  no  one  in  the  world  except  Dr.  Luther  who  could 

1  Mentioned  as  a  source  of  Knaake  (Weimar),  vi,  393,  but  wrongly  attributed 
to  Faustus  Andrelinus.  Cf.  F.  M.  Nichols :  The  Epistles  of  Erasmus  (London, 
1901-1904),  ii,  446. 


take  on  himself  the  care  of  the  Christian  estate,  and  give  counsel  to 
such  high  and  mighty  persons.  I  do  not  excuse  myself :  let  him  blame 
me  who  will.  Perhaps  I  owe  my  God  and  the  world  some  folly,  which 
I  have  now  undertaken,  as  far  as  in  me  lies,  to  pay  honestly,  even  if 
it  be  to  become  court  fool.  If  I  cannot  pay  it,  at  least  no  one  will  dare 
buy  me  a  fool's  cap  or  cut  my  comb,  for  he  who  fastens  bells  on  his 
neighbor  keeps  some  for  himself.  I  must  fulfil  the  proverb  that  when- 
ever the  world  has  some  work  to  be  done,  a  monk  must  do  it  even  if  he 
be  ground  to  pieces  by  it.  In  times  past  fools  have  often  spoken  wisely 
and  the  wise  have  often  been  great  fools,  as  St.  Paul  says  :  If  any  man 
would  be  wise,  let  him  become  a  fool.  As  I  am  not  only  a  fool,  but  a 
doctor  sworn  to  defend  Holy  Scripture,  I  am  glad  that  I  now  have  a 
chance  to  discharge  my  oath,  even  if  I  do  it  in  a  foolish  way.  Please 
excuse  me  to  those  who  have  moderate  understanding,  for  I  know  not 
how  to  deserve  the  favor  of  those  who  are  wise  beyond  measure  :  I 
have  often  tried  to  do  it  with  great  pains,  but  from  henceforth  will  not 
try  nor  care  what  they  think.  God  help  us  to  seek  not  our  own  but  his 
glory.  Amen. 

After  this  dedication  the  author  commences  with  a  compli- 
ment to  "the  noble  young  blood  Charles  "  and  an  appeal  to  him 
to  reform  the  grievances  which  weigh  so  heavily  on  all  men.  He 
then  goes  on  to  show  why  it  is  that  the  laity  have  never  been 
able  to  bring  the  clergy  to  account :  — 

"The  Romanists  have  built  three  walls  about  themselves  with 
great  dexterity,  with  which  they  have  hitherto  protected  themselves  so 
that  no  one  has  been  able  to  reform  them,  and  the  whole  of  Christen- 
dom has  consequently  declined.  The  first  wall  is  that  if  the  civil  au- 
thority presses  them,  they  affirm  that  civil  government  has  no  rights 
over  them,  but  contrariwise  spiritual  over  temporal.  Secondly,  if  one 
would  punish  them  by  the  Bible,  they  oppose  it  by  saying  that  no  one 
has  a  right  to  interpret  the  Bible  except  the  Pope.  Thirdly,  if  they  are 
threatened  with  a  general  council,  they  pretend  that  only  the  Pope  has 
the  right  to  summon  a  council.  So  they  have  privily  stolen  three  rods 
from  us,  to  remain  unpunished,  and  they  have  entrenched  themselves 
in  these  three  walls  to  do  all  rascality  and  evil.  .  .  .  May  God  now 
give  us  one  of  the  trumpets  by  which  the  walls  of  Jericho  were  thrown 
down.  ... 

"  The  first  wall  consists  in  the  discovery  that  the  Pope,  bishops, 
priests,  and  monks  are  the  spiiitual  estate,  whereas  princes,  lords,  la- 


borers,  and  peasants  are  of  the  temporal  estate.  .  .  .  But  all  Christians 
are  really  of  the  spiritual  estate  and  there  is  no  difference  except  of 
office,  .  .  .  for  we  were  all  made  priests  by  baptism  ...  a  higher 
consecration  than  any  that  Pope  or  bishop  gives.  But  handling  God's 
Word  and  the  sacrament  is  simply  the  work  of  the  priest,  bishop  and 
Pope,  as  bearing  the  sword  and  punishing  evil  is  the  work  of  the  civil 
magistrate.  Even  so  cobblers,  smiths  and  peasants  —  though  conse- 
crated priests  and  bishops  —  have  their  own  work.  Each  one  should 
help  his  neighbor's  body  and  soul  as  the  members  of  the  body  serve 
one  another. 

"  Now  one  may  see  how  Christian  is  their  law  that  the  temporal  au- 
thority has  no  right  to  punish  the  spiritual.  That  is  as  much  as  to  say 
that  when  the  eye  is  suffering,  the  hand  should  do  nothing  for  it.  .  .  . 
Wherefore  the  temporal  powers  of  Christendom  should  freely  exercise 
their  office,  not  regarding  whether  it  is  Pope,  bishop,  or  priest  that  they 
punish,  but  only  that  the  guilty  suffer. 

"  The  second  wall  is  still  frailer  and  poorer,  the  claim,  namely,  that 
they  alone  are  masters  of  the  Bible.  Although  their  whole  life  long 
they  learn  nothing  in  it,  yet  they  presume  to  say  that  they  alone  un- 
derstand it,  and  juggle  with  such  words  as  that  the  Pope  cannot  err : 
be  he  bad  or  good,  one  cannot  teach  him  a  letter !  It  is  for  this  reason 
that  so  many  heretical  and  unchristian,  yes,  unnatural  laws  stand  in 
the  Canon  Law.  .  .  . 

"  The  third  wall  falls  of  itself  when  the  first  two  are  down,  for  when 
the  Pope  acts  against  Scripture,  we  are  bound  by  Scripture  to  punish 
and  compel  him."  There  is  no  Scriptural  proof  that  the  Pope  only  can 
call  a  council :  to  assert  this  is  like  saying  "  if  a  fire  break  out  in  a  city 
every  one  should  stand  still  and  let  it  go  on  and  burn  as  it  pleases, 
because  the  private  citizens  have  not  the  power  of  the  mayor,  or  be- 
cause the  fire  started  in  the  mayor's  house.  .  .  .  No  one  in  Christen- 
dom has  the  right  to  do  harm." 

Now  we  will  examine  the  articles  which  should  properly  be  treated 
by  a  council.  If  the  Pope  and  bishops  loved  Christ,  .they  would  busy 
themselves  with  them  day  and  night,  but  as  they  do  not  love  Christ,  let 
the  temporal  power  attend  to  them,  not  regarding  the  bans  and  thun- 
ders of  the  clergy,  for  one  unjust  ban  is  better  than  ten  just  absolu- 
tions and  one  unjust  absolution  worse  than  ten  just  bans.  .  .  . 

1.  It  is  horrible  and  terrible  that  the  Primate  of  all  Christendom, 
who  boasts  he  is  Christ's  Vicar  and  St.  Peter's  follower,  should  live  in 
more  worldly  pomp  than  any  king  or  emperor,  and  that  he  who  is 
called  "most  holy  and   spiritual"  is  really  more  worldly  than  the 


world  itself.  The  Pope  should  therefore  he  forced  to  live  more 

"  2.  What  is  the  use  of  that  people  in  Christendom  who  are  called 
cardinals  ?  I  will  tell  you.  Italy  and  Germany  have  many  rich  clois- 
ters, foundations,  livings,  and  benefices  which  people  do  not  know  how 
to  turn  to  the  profit  of  Rome  better  than  by  making  cardinals  and 
giving  them  abbacies  and  bishoprics,  though  in  so  doing  they  trample 
God's  service  under  foot.  ...  I  advise  that  the  cardinals  be  reduced 
in  number,  or  else  that  the  Pope  support  them  from  his  own  purse. 
Twelve  would  be  enough,  with  one  thousand  gulden  '  a  year." 

3.  The  papal  court  should  be  reduced  to  one  hundredth  part  of  its 
present  size.  Germany  gives  more  to  the  Pope  than  to  the  Emperor. 
The  annates  (one  half  the  income  of  one  year  payable  by  all  ap- 
pointees of  benefices)  should  be  abolished,  as  well  as  raising  money 
by  the  Pope  under  pretext  of  the  Turkish  war.  The  numerous  reserva- 
tions of  the  Pope  to  appointments  in  certain  months  and  to  certain 
livings  should  be  curtailed.  Palls  should  no  longer  be  sold  to  arch- 
bishops, and  the  habit  of  appointing  old  and  sickly  men  to  offices  in 
order  to  have  a  fresh  vacancy  soon  should  be  stopped.  Another  crying 
abuse  is  plurality  ;  Luther  has  heard  of  one  man  in  Rome  who  holds 
twenty-two  livings,  seven  provostships  and  forty-four  canonries.  Simony 
and  the  transfer  of  appointments  under  the  fraudulent  pretext  of  a 
"  mental  reservation  "  on  the  part  of  the  Pope  is  a  sin  and  a  shame. 
In  short,  at  Rome,  "  there  is  a  buying  and  selling,  a  change  and  ex- 
change, a  crying  and  lying,  fraud,  robbery,  theft,  luxury,  whoredom, 
rascality,  and  despite  of  God  in  every  way,  so  that  it  would  not  be 
possible  for  Antichrist  to  outdo  Rome  in  iniquity."  There  all  things 
are  sold  and  all  laws  can  be  abrogated  for  money.  "  Let  no  one  think 
I  exaggerate :  it  is  public  ;  they  cannot  deny  it."  If  I  want  to  fight 
the  Turks,  the  worst  Turks  are  those  in  Italy. 

"  Now,  though  I  am  too  little  to  propose  articles  for  the  reformation 
of  such  things,  yet  will  I  sing  my  fool's  game  to  the  end  and  say,  as 
much  as  my  reason  is  able,  what  might  and  should  be  done  by  the 
temporal  power  or  a  general  council." 

1.  Each  prince  should  forbid  annates. 

2.  No  foreigners  should  be  allowed  to  take  benefices. 

3.  An  imperial  law  should  be  made  that  no  ecclesiastic  should  go  to 
Rome  to  get  any  dignity  and  that  whoever  appealed  to  Rome  should 
lose  his  office. 

1  Five  hundred  dollars;  in  purchasing  power  worth  about  twenty  times  as 


4.  No  legal  cause  should  be  appealed  to  Rome.1 

5.  There  should  be  no  more  papal  reservations. 

6.  There  should  be  no  more  "  casus  reservati."  (Legal  actions 
which  could  only  be  heard  in  Rome.) 

7.  The  Pope  should  abolish  most  offices  and  support  the  rest  himself. 

8.  Bishops  should  be  invested  by  the  civil  magistrate  as  in 
France  and  not  obliged  to  swear  allegiance  to  the  Pope. 

9.  The  Pope  should  claim  no  authority  over  the  Emperor,  whom  he 
should  crown  only  as  a  bishop  does  a  king.  It  is  ridiculous  for  the 
Pope  to  claim  that  when  the  Empire  is  vacant  he  inherits  it.  The 
Donation  of  Constantine  is  an  unexampled  lie. 

10.  The  Pope  should  give  up  his  pretensions  to  Naples  and  Sicily. 

11.  Kissing  the  Pope's  foot  and  other  silly  signs  of  respect  should 
be  abolished. 

12.  There  should  be  no  more  pilgrimages  to  Rome,  especially  in  the 
years  of  jubilee.  No  one  should  undertake  any  pilgrimage  without 
the  consent  of  his  pastor. 

13.  The  begging  friars  are  a  curse.  Many  monasteries  should  be 
suppressed  and  no  more  founded.  It  would  be  an  excellent  thing  if 
the  inmates  were  allowed  to  leave  when  they  pleased  u  as  in  the  time 
of  the  apostles  and  long  after." 

"  14.  We  see  how  it  has  happened  that  many  a  poor  priest  is  bur- 
dened with  wife  and  child  and  wounded  in  his  conscience  and  yet  no 
one  does  aught  to  help  him.  ...  I  advise  that  it  be  left  free  to  every 
man  to  marry  or  not  as  he  chooses.  .  .  .  Those  who  live  together  as 
man  and  wife  are  surely  married  before  God." 

15.  It  is  a  shame  that  in  the  cloisters  abbots  and  abbesses  make 
their  brothers  and  sisters  confess  their  secret  sins  and  then  persuade 
them  that  they  are  going  to  hell. 

16.  Vigils  and  private  masses  should  be  abolished  or  reduced  in 

"  17.  Certain  pains  and  penalties  provided  by  the  Canon  Law  must 
be  done  away,  especially  the  interdict  which  was  doubtless  invented 
by  the  evil  spirit.  For  is  it  not  the  devil's  work  to  mend  a  sin  by  doing 
greater  sin  ?  And  is  it  not  an  enormous  sin  to  stop  all  divine  services  ?  " 

18.  All  saints'  days  and  holidays  should  be  done  away  except  Sun- 
days, for  now  they  are  only  spent  in  drunkenness,  gaming,  and  idle- 

19.  Marriages  between  distant  relations  should  be  allowed,  as  their 

1  Compare  these  provisions  with  the  English  statutes  of  Provisors  and  Prae- 


prohibition  is  only  a  means  of  the  Pope  getting  money.    Fasts  should 
be  left  free. 

20.  Shrines  and  chapels  in  fields  and  woods  should  be  taken  down. 
Pilgrimages  to  them  cause  all  kinds  of  disorders.  It  makes  no  difference 
if  miracles  are  performed  at  these  shrines,  "  for  were  there  no  other 
sign  that  these  are  not  of  God,  this  would  be  enough,  that  men  flock 
to  them  like  cattle  without  reason."  If  the  authorities  refuse  to  abate 
these  nuisances  let  every  man  resolve  not  to  be  deceived  by  them. 

21.  One  of  the  greatest  needs  is  that  begging  should  be  prohibited 
throughout  Christendom.  Each  city  should  take  care  of  its  own  poor, 
and  nothing  should  be  given  to  sturdy  pilgrims,  and  friars.  u  There  is 
no  other  trade  in  which  there  is  so  much  rascality  and  cheating  as 

22.  Foundations  and  canonries  should  be  reduced  to  a  small  number 
in  the  cathedrals  which  would  serve  to  support  children  of  the  nobility. 
Pluralities  should  be  forbidden. 

23.  Religious  brotherhoods  and  such  things  should  be  abolished. 
Papal  commissaries  ought  to  be  chased  out  of  the  country. 

24.  It  is  high  time  that  some  effort  be  made  to  heal  the  Bohemian 
schism.  It  should  be  granted  that  Huss  and  Jerome  of  Prague  were 
wrongly  burned.  \ "  If  I  knew  that  the  Beghards  had  no  other  error 
about  the  sacrament  of  the  altar  except  the  belief  that  it  was  natural 
bread  and  wine,  though  the  flesh  of  Christ  were  in  it,  I  would  not  cast 
them  out,  but  let  them  live  under  the  Bishop  of  Prague,  for  it  is  not  an 
article  of  faith  to  believe  that  natural  bread  and  wine  are  not  in  the 
sacrament — which  is  a  delusion  of  Aquinas  and  the  Pope  —  but 
merely  to  believe  that  true  and  natural  flesh  and  blood  are  in  the  bread 
and  wine.  .  .  . " 

"  25.  The  universities  need  a  good,  stiff  reform ;  I  must  say  it,  let  it 
offend  whom  it  may.  ...  It  is  my  advice  that  the  books  of  Aristotle, 
—  Physics,  Metaphysics,  The  Soul,  and  Ethics,  —  which  have  hitherto 
been  esteemed  the  best,  be  entirely  removed  from  the  curriculum, 
together  with  all  others  which  boast  that  they  teach  natural  science, 
although  from  them  one  learns  neither  natural  nor  spiritual  things. 
No  one  has  ever  understood  Aristotle's  meaning,  and  yet  this  study 
is  kept  up  to  waste  time  and  burden  the  soul.  I  venture  to  think  that 
a  potter  has  more  natural  science  than  is  contained  in  all  those  books. 
It  is  a  sorrow  to  my  heart  that  that  cursed  (verdammte),  arrogant, 
rascally  heathen  has  made  fools  of  so  many  of  the  best  Christians.  God 
has  plagued  us  thus  for  our  sins.  In  his  best  book,  On  the  Soul,  Aris- 
totle teaches  that  the  soul  dies  with  the  body.  .  .  .  There  is  no  worse 


book  than  his  Ethics,  which  goes  directly  counter  to  God's  grace  and 
Christian  virtue.  .  .  .  But  I  would  gladly  allow  Aristotle's  books  on 
Logic,  Rhetoric,  and  Poetics  to  be  kept,  at  least  in  an  abbreviated  form 
without  elaborate  commentaries.  .  .  .  Besides  these  studies  I  recom- 
mend Latin,  Greek,  Hebrew,  mathematics,  and  history.  .  .  . 

u  The  schools  of  medicine  I  will  allow  to  reform  themselves,  but 
take  the  schools  of  law  and  theology  to  myself.  To  the  former  I  say 
that  it  were  good  that  the  whole  Canon  Law,  from  the  first  to  the  last 
letter,  especially  the  Decretals,  were  eradicated.  More  than  enough 
law  is  to  be  found  in  the  Bible.  .  .  .  And  moreover  the  law  of  the 
Church  nowadays  is  not  what  is  written  in  the  books,  but  whatever  the 
Pope  or  his  followers  want.  .  .  .  God  help  us !  What  a  wilderness 
the  Civil  Law  has  become !  Although  it  is  much  better  and  wiser  than 
the  Canon  Law  —  in  which,  except  God's  name,  there  is  nothing  good 
—  yet  there  is  far  too  much  of  it.  .  .  .  It  seems  to  me  that  the  laws 
of  each  State  of  the  Empire  should  have  precedence  over  the  Imperial 
law,  which  should  only  be  used  in  case  of  need.  Would  to  God  that 
each  land  had  its  own  short  law  as  each  has  its  special  nature  and 

In  the  schools  of  divinity  the  Bible  should  be  supreme,  and  other 
works  be  duly  subordinated. 

Each  city  should  have  schools  for  boys  and  girls,  where  the  gospel 
should  be  read  to  them  either  in  Latin  or  German. 

26.  It  should  no  more  be  taught  that  the  Pope,  having  transferred 
the  Empire  to  the  Germans,  has  superiority  over  the  Emperor.1 

27.  It  is  now  time  to  speak  of  some  things  amiss  in  the  civil  polity, 
having  thoroughly  treated  the  abuses  of  the  Church. 

Sumptuary  laws  should  be  passed  restraining  extravagance  in  dress. 
"  But  the  greatest  misfortune  to  Germany  is  usury.  ...  A  bridle 
should  be  put  in  the  mouth  of  the  Fuggers  and  such  companies,  who 
make  from  twenty  to  one  hundred  per  cent  on  their  money  annu- 
ally." It  would  be  better  to  increase  agriculture  and  diminish  com- 

It  is  shameful  that  Christians  should  allow  brothels.  The  chief 
sinners  in  these  places  are  the  clergy.  No  man  should  therefore  be 
allowed  to  vow  celibacy  before  thirty. 

This  brief  analysis  of  Luther's  greatest  work  can  give  but 
a  faint  idea  of  the  cause  of  its  tremendous  and  immediate  pop- 

1  This  article,  which  repeats  the  substance  of  the  ninth,  was  not  in  the  first 


ular  success.  This  lay  in  the  seasonableness  of  the  strong  words, 
which  expressed  what  every  one  was  thinking  and  what  all 
desired.  In  timeliness  and  popularity  it  might  be  compared 
with  Uncle  Tom's  Cabin,  though  in  dignity  of  treatment  and 
creative  thought  it  is  far  above  that  excellent  novel. 

Luther's  vehemence  offended  some  even  of  his  best  friends. 
Lang  went  so  far  as  suggesting  that  the  work  be  recalled  a  few 
days  after  its  appearance,  early  in  August.  His  letter  met  with 
the  following  response :  — 


Wittenberg,  August  18,  1520. 

Greeting.  Dear  Father,  is  my  pamphlet,  which  you  term  a  trumpet- 
blast,  really  so  fierce  and  cruel  as  you  and  all  others  seem  to  think  ? 
I  confess  it  is  free  and  aggressive,  and  yet  it  pleases  many  and  does 
not  even  much  displease  our  court.  I  am  not  able  to  determine  my 
own  place  in  the  present  movement ;  perhaps  I  am  the  harbinger  of 
Melanchthon,  for  whom  I  shall,  like  Elias,  prepare  a  way  in  spirit 
and  in  power,  troubling  Israel  and  the  followers  of  Ahab.  But  to 
return  to  my  book  —  good  or  bad  it  is  no  longer  in  my  power  to  recall 
it.  Four  thousand  copies  have  already  been  printed  and  sent  away, 
nor  could  I  cause  Lotther,  the  publisher,  the  loss  he  would  sustain  in 
recalling  these.    If  I  have  sinned,  we  must  remedy  it  by  prayer. 

We  are  here  persuaded  that  the  papacy  is  the  seat  of  the  true  and 
genuine  Antichrist,  against  whose  deceit  and  iniquity  we  think  all 
things  are  lawful  unto  us  for  the  salvation  of  souls.  For  myself,  I  do 
not  admit  that  I  owe  any  obedience  to  the  Pope,  unless  I  also  owe  it 
to  the  Antichrist.  Think  of  these  things,  do  not  judge  us  rashly,  for 
we  have  reason  for  our  opinion. 

Melanchthon  is  going  to  marry  Catharine  Krapp,  for  which  people 
blame  me ;  I  do  the  best  I  can  for  the  man,  nothing  moved  by  the 
clamor  of  all ;  may  God  make  all  turn  out  well. 

From  my  heart  I  hate  that  man  of  sin  and  son  of  perdition,  with 
all  his  kingdom,  which  is  nothing  but  sin  and  hypocrisy. 


Brother  Martin  Luther. 

A  letter,  written  the  next  day  to  another  friend,  is  interest- 
ing, as  giving  Luther's  justification  for  the  vehemence  of  his 


language,  which  has  given  offence  not  only  in  his  own  day  but 


(Wittenberg,)  August  19,  1520. 
Greeting.  I  do  not  do  it  [speak  violently],  dear  Father,  to  get  praise 
and  honor  by  my  books  and  writings,  for  almost  all  condemn  my  acri- 
mony ;  but  I  agree  with  you  that  perhaps  God  exposes  the  impostures 
of  men  in  this  way.  I  see  that  whatever  is  treated  mildly  in  our  age 
soon  falls  into  oblivion,  for  no  one  minds  it.  But  the  womb  of  Rebecca 
must  bear  strife  and  infants  contending  with  each  other.  The  present 
judges  badly;  posterity  will  judge  better.  Even  Paul  calls  his  ad- 
versaries now  dogs,  now  the  concision,  now  babblers,  false  workers  of 
miracles,  ministers  of  Satan,  and  things  of  that  sort,  and  curses  a  whited 
wall  to  his  face.  What  prophet  does  not  use  the  bitterest  invective  ? 
Such  language  becomes  so  trite  that  it  ceases  to  move.  Our  Reverend 
Father  Vicar 2  wrote  me  yesterday  from  Erfurt  asking  me  not  to  pub- 
lish my  work  on  the  Improvement  of  the  Christian  Estate ;  I  know 
not  on  what  ground  complaint  was  made  to  him,  at  any  rate  his  letter 
came  too  late,  after  the  book  had  appeared ;  pray  try  and  appease 
him  when  you  see  him.  Who  knows  if  it  be  not  the  Spirit  who  moves 
me  with  this  ardor,  since  it  is  certain  that  I  am  not  carried  away  by 

1  It  is  instructive  to  compare  Luther's  defence  with  that  made  by  Milton  more 
than  a  century  later,  on  the  same  charge.  "  If  therefore  the  question  were  one  of 
oratory,  whether  the  vehement  throwing  out  of  scorn  and  indignation  upon  an 
ohject  that  merits  it,  were  among  the  aptest  ideas  of  speech  to  he  allowed, it  were 
my  work,  and  that  an  easy  one,  to  make  clear  both  by  the  rules  of  the  best  rhet- 
oricians and  the  famousest  examples  of  Greek  and  Roman  orators.  But  since  the 
religion  of  it  is  disputed  and  not  the  art  ..."  many  examples  of  such  language 
may  be  cited  from  the  Bible.  "  Yet  that  ye  may  not  think  inspiration  the  only 
warrant  thereof,  but  that  it  is  as  any  other  virtue,  of  moral  and  general  observa- 
tion, the  example  of  Luther  may  stand  for  all  .  .  .  who  writ  so  vehemently 
against  the  chief  defenders  of  the  old  untruths  in  the  Romish  Church,  that  his 
own  friends  and  favorers  were  offended  with  the  fierceness  of  his  spirit."  Milton 
goes  on  to  show  that  when  Luther  betook  himself  to  moderation  he  got  only 
despite  from  Cajetan  and  Eck,  "  and  herewithal  how  useful  and  available  God 
made  this  tart  rhetoric  in  the  Church's  cause,  he  often  found  by  his  own  experi- 
ence. .  .  .  And  this  I  shall  easily  aver,  though  it  may  seem  a  hard  saying,  that 
the  Spirit  of  God,  who  is  purity  itself,  when  he  would  reprove  any  fault  severely, 
or  but  relate  things  said  or  done  with  indignation  by  others,  abstains  not  from 
some  words  not  civil  at  other  times  to  be  spoken."  Various  citations  of  indecent 
expressions  used  by  God  are  given,  among  others,  1  Kings  xiv,  10.  Cf.  Apology 
for  Smectymnuus. 

8  Lang,  who  had  been  elected  Vicar  in  Staupitz's  place,  1520. 


love  of  glory  or  of  money  or  of  pleasure,  much  less  by  vindictiveness  ? 
I  do  not  wish  to  stir  up  rebellion  but  only  to  assert  the  freedom  of  a 
general  council. 

Farewell  in  the  Lord.  Your  brother, 

Martin  Luther. 

Luther's  second  great  reforming  pamphlet,  The  Prelude  to 
the  Babylonian  Captivity  of  the  Church,  followed  hard  on  the 
first,  appearing  early  in  October.  The  former  tract  had  been 
directed  against  the  practical  abuses  of  the  Church ;  this  was 
a  blow  at  the  base  of  her  theology,  the  sacramental  system. 
The  thoughts  expressed  in  it  were  old  ones  to  the  writer,  but 
were  put  with  fresh  force,  energy,  and  comprehensiveness.  The 
Address  to  the  Nobility  had  been  written  in  German  as  an  ap- 
peal to  the  mass  of  that  nation ;  the  Babylonian  Captivity  was 
composed  in  Latin,  and  translated  against  its  author's  will,  for 
it  was  meant  primarily  for  theologians  and  scholars.  A  brief 
analysis  of  its  ninety  pages,  as  nearly  as  possible  in  the  original 
words,  will  give  the  best  idea  of  its  contents :  — 

Willy  nilly,  I  am  daily  forced  to  become  more  learned,  with  so 
many  and  such  able  teachers  pressing  me  on  and  giving  me  exercises. 
I  wrote  of  indulgences  two  years  ago,1  but  in  such  a  way  that  I  now 
greatly  repent  having  published  that  book.  For  at  that  time  I  stuck 
in  a  sort  of  superstitious  reverence  for  the  tyranny  of  Rome,  wherefore 
I  did  not  think  that  indulgences  should  be  altogether  reprobated,  since 
they  were  approved  by  the  common  opinion  of  mankind.  It  was  no 
wonder  that  I  thought  so,  for  I  alone  rolled  this  rock  away.  But  later, 
by  the  kindness  of  Prierias  and  his  brothers,  who  strenuously  defended 
indulgences,  I  understood  that  they  were  nothing  but  a  mere  imposture 
of  the  Pope's  flatterers,  alike  destructive  to  men's  faith  and  fortunes. 
Would  that  I  could  persuade  all  booksellers  and  all  who  have  read 
my  books  on  them  to  burn  what  I  then  wrote  and  substitute  this  pro- 
position :  — 


After  this,  Eck  and  Emser  with  their  allies  forced  me  to  learn 
the  nature  of  the  Pope's  primacy.   Not  to  be  ungrateful  to  such  learned 
men,  I  acknowledge  that  their  books  have  moved  me   a  great  way 
1  The  Resolutions. 


forward.  For  previously,  while  denying  that  the  papacy  was  of  divine 
right,  I  admitted  it  as  a  thing  of  human  law.  But  now  that  I  have 
read  the  most  subtle  subtilties  of  those  little  coxcombs  (Trossuli)  by 
which  they  ingeniously  forged  their  idol,  not  being  unteachable  in  such 
matters  I  have  learned  and  am  certain  that  the  papacy  is  th«  kingdom 
of  Babylon  and  the  power  of  Nimrod  the  mighty  hunter.  Wherefore 
in  this  case  also  I  beg  all  my  booksellers  and  readers  that  having 
burned  what  I  have  hitherto  written  on  this  matter  they  should  hold 
to  this  proposition :  — 


Giving  the  cup  to  the  laity  at  communion  is  enjoined  by  the  Bible 
and  forbidden  by  the  Pope  ;  wherefore  I  shall  proceed  to  show  that 
they  are  wicked  who  deny  the  sacrament  in  both  kinds  to  laymen.  In 
order  to  do  this  more  conveniently,  I  shall  sing  a  prelude  on  the 
captivity  of  the  Roman  Church. 

In  the  first  place  I  deny  that  the  sacraments  are  seven  in  num- 
ber, and  assert  that  there  are  only  three,  baptism,  penance,  and  the 
Lord's  Supper,  and  that  all  these  three  have  been  bound  by  the  Roman 
Curia  in  a  miserable  captivity  and  that  the  Church  has  been  deprived 
of  all  her  freedom.  Howbeit,  should  I  wish  to  speak  according  to  the 
usage  of  Scripture,  I  should  say  that  there  was  only  one  sacrament 
and  three  sacramental  signs.  .  .  . 

Before  summarizing  Luther's  criticisms  of  the  Roman  sacra- 
mental system,  it  may  conduce  to  clearness  to  give  the  briefest 
possible  account  of  that  system.  Sacramentum  in  Latin  means 
a  sacred  thing  and  by  the  early  fathers  was  applied  to  a  num- 
ber of  holy  objects,  for  example,  the  cross  of  Christ.  It  soon 
came  to  have  the  more  special  meaning  that  it  now  bears,  that 
of  a  rite  of  the  Church  to  which  a  spiritual  meaning  is  attached, 
the  two  distinguishing  characteristics  of  a  sacrament  being  an 
outward  sign  and  a  promise.  Thus  the  rite  of  distributing  the 
bread  and  wine,  with  the  promise  of  forgiveness,  constituted 
the  eucharist,  the  immersion  or  sprinkling  with  water,  with 
the  promise  of  salvation  (Mark  xvi,  16),  is  baptism.  In  like 
manner  confession  and  forgiveness  (James  v,  16)  were  made 
the  sacrament  of  penance,  and  the  anointing  of  the  sick  with 
oil  for  his  recovery  and  forgiveness  (James  v,  14  and  15)  be- 
came the  sacrament  of  supreme  unction.    Confirmation  and 


orders  had  the  same  sign,  the  laying  on  of  hands,  but  with  a 
different  purpose,  the  first  to  strengthen  a  layman  in  his  faith, 
the  other  to  impart  the  spiritual  character  to  a  priest  (Acts  vi, 
6;  xiii,  3;  1  Tim.  iv,  14;  2  Tim.  i,  6).  Finally  marriage  was 
made  a  sacrament  for  two  peculiar  reasons.  Peter  Lombard, 
who  first  formulated  the  doctrine  (circa  1100),  was,  like  many 
ancient  and  mediaeval  philosophers,  much  under  the  obsession 
of  sacred  numbers.  Having  as  yet  but  six  sacraments,  he  wished 
to  complete  the  sacred  seven  by  the  addition  of  another,  and 
hit  upon  matrimony,  which  is  not  a  specially  Christian  institu- 
tion at  all,  but  one  common  to  all  mankind.  St.  Paul  compares 
the  union  of  man  and  wife  with  that  of  Christ  and  the  Church, 
which,  says  he,  is  a  great  mystery  (i.  e.,  holy  secret),  a  Greek 
word  translated  in  the  Latin  Vulgate  sacramentum  (Eph.  v, 
31  and  32).  It  was  this  misunderstanding  of  Paul's  meaning 
that  induced  Lombard  to  include  wedlock  among  the  holy  rites 
of  the  Church.  It  is  not  necessary  to  go  deeply  into  Luther's 
criticisms  of  this  theology,  but  a  brief  summary  of  his  most 
interesting  remarks  is  valuable  for  the  insight  it  gives  into  his 
doctrine  :  — • 

Eucharist.  The  first  "  captivity  "  (i.  e.,  abuse)  of  this  sacra- 
ment is  the  denial  of  the  cup  to  the  laity.  The  second  is  the 
doctrine  of  transubstantiation.  (On  Luther's  nearly  allied 
theory  "  consubstantiation,"  compare  above  in  the  Address  to 
the  Nobility,  article  24,  and  below,  chapter  xxi.)  The  third 
abuse  is  the  theory  that  the  mass  is  a  good  work,  whereas  it  is 
really  a  commemoration. 

Baptism.  God  has  preserved  this  rite  from  abuse,  but  the 
glory  of  the  freedom  whereunto  we  are  baptized  has  been  cap- 
tured by  the  Roman  Church.  All  other  vows  are  a  disparage- 
ment of  the  baptismal  vow. 

Penance.  The  first  and  capital  abuse  of  this  sacrament  is 
they  have  entirely  abolished  it  (i.  e.,  repentance),  denying  that 
faith  is  necessary. 

Luther  adds  that  "  strictly  speaking  "  penance  is  not  a  sacra- 
ment, there  being  only  two.  The  remaining  four  he  thinks  have 
no  right  to  be  considered  sacraments  in  any  sense.  In  discuss- 
ing matrimony  he  makes  several  digressions,  some  of  which  are 


rather  shocking  to  our  ears.  For  example,  he  proposes  that 
a  woman  married  to  an  impotent  man  be  allowed,  under  certain 
conditions,  to  cohabit  with  another.  Again :  "I  so  detest  di- 
vorce that  I  prefer  bigamy,  but  whether  divorce  is  ever  allow- 
able or  not  I  dare  not  say."  More  will  be  said  of  this  peculiar 
view  when  on  later  occasions  Luther  advised  two  sovereigns  to 
take  second  wives  rather  than  put  away  their  first  ones. 

Such  is  the  second  of  the  three  great  pamphlets,  which,  like 
its  predecessor,  created  an  enormous  stir.  Erasmus  judged  that 
it  precluded  all  possibility  of  peace,  and  Henry  VIII  of  Eng- 
land, as  well  as  a  host  of  less  distinguished  persons,  answered  it. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  mass  of  the  people  welcomed  it  eagerly, 
and  the  doctrines  it  taught  have  become  fundamental  to  all  the 
reformed  systems  of  theology. 

The  Address  to  the  Nobility  and  the  Babylonian  Captivity 
had  treated  of  external  abuses,  the  one  in  the  State,  the  other 
in  the  Church ;  the  third  pamphlet,  On  the  Liberty  of  a  Christ- 
ian Man  (or,  in  the  first  Latin  edition,  On  Christian  Liberty), 
went  far  deeper  to  the  inner  life  of  the  spirit.  The  occasion  for 
writing  this  work  was  an  earnest  request  of  the  officious  peace- 
maker, Charles  von  Miltitz,  for  Luther  to  send  a  letter  to  the 
Pope  saying  that  "  he  had  never  meant  to  twit  him  personally." 
The  Reformer  complied ;  a  few  extracts  from  this  missive,  com- 
posed in  the  latter  half  of  October,  are  interesting :  — 

Of  your  person,  excellent  Leo,  I  have  heard  only  what  is  honorable 
and  good  .  .  .  but  of  the  Roman  See,  as  you  and  all  men.  must  know, 
it  is  more  scandalous  and  shameful  than  any  Sodom  or  Babylon,  and, 
as  far  as  I  can  see,  its  wickedness  is  beyond  all  counsel  and  help,  hav- 
ing become  desperate  and  abysmal.  It  made*  me  sick  at  heart  to  see 
that  under  your  name  and  that  of  the  Roman  Church,  the  poor  people 
in  all  the  world  are  cheated  and  injured,  against  which  thing  I  have 
set  myself  and  will  set  myself  as  long  as  I  have  life,  not  that  I  hope 
to  reform  that  horrible  Roman  Sodom,  but  that  I  know  I  am  the 
debtor  and  servant  of  all  Christians,  and  that  it  is  my  duty  to  counsel 
and  warn  them.  .  .  . 

Finally,  that  I  come  not  before  your  Holiness  without  a  gift,  I 
offer  you  this  little  treatise,  dedicated  to  you  as  an  augury  of  peace 
and  good  hope ;  by  this  book  you  may  see  how  fruitfully  I  might  em 


ploy  my  time,  as  I  should  prefer  to,  if  only  those  impious  flatterers  of 
yours  would  let  me.  It  is  a  little  book  as  respects  size,  but  if  I  mis- 
take not,  the  whole  sum  of  a  Christian  life  is  set  down  therein,  in 
respect  to  contents.  I  am  poor  and  have  nothing  else  to  send  you*  nor 
do  you  stand  in  need  of  any  but  my  spiritual  gifts. 

The  little  pamphlet  of  thirty  pages,  published  early  in  No- 
vember in  both  Latin  and  German,  begins  with  a  paradox :  — 

"  A  Christian  man  is  the  most  free  lord  of  all,  subject  to  none. 

"  A  Christian  man  is  the  dutiful  servant  of  all,  subject  to  every  one. 

"  These  statements  seem  to  conflict,  but  when  they  are  found  to 
agree  they  will  edify  us.  For  both  are  contained  in  that  saying  of 
Paul's  (1  Cor.  ix,  19),  *  For  though  I  be  free  from  all  men,  yet  have 
I  made  myself  servant  unto  all.'  You  owe  nothing  but  to  love  one  an- 
other, for  true  love,  by  its  nature,  is  dutiful  and  obedient  to  what  it 
loves.  Thus  also  Christ,  although  Lord  of  all,  yet  was  made  a  man 
under  the  law,  free  and  a  servant,  at  the  same  time  in  the  form  of 
God  and  in  that  of  a  slave." 

A  man  consists  of  a  double  nature,  spiritual  and  corporal ;  and 
these  two  are  contrary,  the  spirit  fighting  the  flesh  and  the  flesh  the 
spirit.  "  But  it  is  clear  that  external  things  have  no  effect  on  Christ- 
ian liberty.  .  .  .  For  what  can  it  profit  the  soul  if  the  body  is  well, 
free  and  lively,  eats,  drinks,  and  does  what  it  pleases,  since  even  the 
wickedest  slaves  of  all  vice  often  have  these  advantages  ?  Again,  how 
can  ill  health  or  captivity  or  hunger  or  thirst  hurt  the  soul,  since  the 
best  men  and  those  of  the  purest  conscience  often  suffer  these  things  ? 
.  .  .  Nor  does  it  profit  the  soul  to  have  the  body  clad  in  priestly  gar- 
ments, nor  hurt  her  to  have  it  clothed  as  a  layman.  .  .  . 

"  One  thing  only  is  needful  to  a  good  life  and  Christian  liberty,  the 
gospel  of  Christ.  .  .  .  Perhaps  you  ask :  What  is  this  Word  of  God 
and  how  is  it  to  be  used,  since  there  are  many  words  of  God  ?  .  .  ." 
Faith  is  the  sole  salutary  and  efficacious  use  of  God's  Word,  for  the 
Word  is  not  to  be  grasped  or  nourished  with  any  works,  but  with  faith 
only.  One  incomparable  grace  of  faith  is  that  it  joins  the  soul  to 
Christ  as  the  bride  to  the  bridegroom,  by  which  mystery,  as  the 
apostle  teaches,  Christ  and  the  soul  are  made  one  flesh.  Who  is  able 
to  prize  this  royal  marriage  enough,  or  comprehend  the  riches  of  this 
grace  ? 

Not  only  are  we  most  free  kings  of  all,  but  we  are  priests  forever, 
by  which  priesthood  we  can  appear  before  God,  pray  for  one  another 
and  teach  one  another.  "  Here  you  ask,  '  If  all  Christians  are  priests, 


by  what  name  shall  we  distinguish  those  whom  we  call  clergy  from  the 
laity  ?  '  I  answer :  By  those  words  '  priest/  '  clergyman,'  '  spiritual,' 
1  ecclesiastic '  an  injury  is  done,  since  they  are  transferred  from  all 
Christians  to  a  few.  Scripture  makes  no  distinction  but  to  call  them 
ministers,  servants,  and  stewards,  who  now  boast  that  they  are  popes, 
bishops,  and  lords.  But  although  it  is  true  that  all  are  priests,  all  are 
not  equally  able  to  teach  publicly,  nor  ought  all  who  are  able  so 
to  do.  .  .  ." 

Now  let  us  turn  to  the  second  part  and  see  how  the  master  of  all 
must  become  the  ministering  servant  to  all.  When  the  soul  has  been 
purified  by  faith,  she  greatly  desires  to  purify  all  things  and  espe- 
cially her  own  body,  and  thus  naturally  brings  forth  the  good  works 
by  which  without  faith  she  could  not  be  justified.  "  Good  works  do 
not  make  a  good  man,  but  a  good  man  produces  good  works,  and  so 
with  bad  works."  Let  us  not  despise  good  works,  but  rather  teach  and 
encourage  them,  only  guarding  against  the  false  opinion  that  they 
make  a  man  just.  We  conclude,  therefore,  that  a  Christian  does  not 
live  to  himself,  but  to  Christ  and  his  neighbor,  to  Christ  by  faith,  to  his 
neighbor  by  love.  By  faith  he  is  snatched  above  himself  to  God  ;  by 
love  he  falls  below  himself  to  his  neighbor,  yet  always  dwelling  in 
God  and  his  love. 

This  is  properly  the  close  of  the  work,  but  a  postscript  is 
added  on  the  course  a  Christian  should  pursue  in  regard  to  cere- 
monies. The  rule  is  first  obedience  to  God's  command  and  then 
charity  to  his  neighbor.  He  should  take  a  middle  course,  not 
tolerating  any  real  abuse  but  not  over-hasty  to  do  away  with 
ceremonies  innocent  in  themselves. 

The  three  great  reforming  pamphlets  not  only  had  a  great 
influence  in  their  own  day,  rallying  the  whole  of  Germany  to 
their  author's  side  at  the  time  of  trial,  but  they  have  a  lasting 
importance  in  literature  and  thought.  In  them  the  whole 
Lutheran  movement  is  epitomized :  the  first  in  relation  to  the 
State,  the  second  as  bearing  on  the  Church,  and  the  third, 
the  most  fundamental  of  all,  as  laying  down  the  new  rule 
for  the  guidance  of  the  individual. 

Before  closing  this  chapter  it  is  interesting  to  note  an  item 
in  the  Reformer's  personal  life,  recalled  long  afterwards :  — 
In  1520  our  Lord  God  tore  me  forcibly  from  saying  the  canonical 


prayers,  for  I  wrote  so  much  that  I  often  missed  them  for  a  week  to- 
gether, and  on  Saturday  frequently  made  up  for  lost  time  by  saying 
them  one  after  another,  so  that  I  could  neither  eat  nor  drink  the 
whole  day.  Thus  I  weakened  myself  so  that  I  could  not  sleep,  and 
Dr.  Esch  had  to  give  me  a  sleeping-powder,  the  effects  of  which  I  still 
feel  in  my  head. 


BULL.    1520 

r     .         ' 

The  action  against  Luther  for  heresy  at  Rome  had  been  al- 
lowed to  sleep  since  the  beginning  of  1519  on  account  of  the 
exigencies  of  politics.  The  death  of  the  Emperor  Maximilian 
in  January  of  that  year  made  necessary  the  election  of  a  suc- 
cessor. Of  the  three  principal  candidates  Leo  X  preferred 
the  Elector  of  Saxony,  who,  it  was  thought,  would  make  both  the 
weakest  and  most  docile  Emperor.  Frederic  was  so  highly 
esteemed  for  his  personal  qualities  that  he  might  have  stood  a 
good  chance  of  the  election,  but  feeling  that  the  position  would 
be  too  great  for  his  resources,  he  did  not  press  his  own  cause, 
but  threw  his  great  weight  into  the  scale  for  the  Hapsburg  can- 
didate against  the  Valois.  It  was,  perhaps,  largely  due  to  his 
efforts  that  on  June  28,  1519,  Charles  of  Spain  was  chosen. 

After  this  event  had  wrecked  the  hopes  of  the  Curia,  and 
especially  after  the  Leipsic  debate  bjCd*  brought  Luther's  heresy 
into  a  stronger  light  than  ever  before,  the  process  against  the 
Saxon  was  renewed.  Another  effort  was  made  to  induce  the 
Elector  to  give  him  up ;  indeed  Saxony  was  threatened  with  the 
interdict  in  case  he  did  not  comply,  though  later  events  showed 
that  the  Pope  hardly  dared  to  use  such  a  drastic  measure.  The 
threat  did  not  succeed  ;  Frederic  replied  in  his  usual  courteous 
and  procrastinating  style  that  Miltitz  had  undertaken  to  bring 
Luther's  case  before  the  Archbishop  of  Trier  for  judgment,  and 
that  the  Curia  had  no  right  to  threaten  the  ban  and  interdict 
before  the  result  of  this  attempt  at  reconciliation  was  known. 

This  letter  worked  like  a  declaration  of  war.  A  consistory 
was  held  at  Rome  on  January  9, 1520,  in  which  Ghinnucci,  who 
had  charge  of  Luther's  case,  thundered  against  the  peaceful, 
pious  prince  as  a  raging  tyrant,  the  enemy  not  only  of  the  clergy 
but  of  the  whole  Christian  religion. 


The  Pope  at  once  appointed  a  commission,  consisting  of 
Cajetan,  Accolti,  the  general  and  procurators  of  the  Dominican 
and  Franciscan  orders,  and  others,  to  draw  up  a  bull  against 
the  heretic.  Except  the  first  two  they  were  all  but  poor  theo- 
logians, but  making  up  in  zeal  what  they  lacked  in  knowledge, 
they  proceeded  in  short  order  to  damn  all  Luther's  propositions 
as  rank  heresy.  Leo,  being  advised  by  the  wiser  heads  among 
the  cardinals  that  such  a  sweeping  position  would  be  untenable, 
dissolved  the  first  commission  in  February  and  appointed  a 
second,  consisting  of  Cajetan,  Accolti,  the  generals  of  the  orders, 
and  some  of  the  best  theologians  in  Rome.  This  body,  proceed- 
ing more  cautiously,  drew  up  a  report  carefully  distinguishing 
a  number  of  propositions  as  "  partly  heretical,  partly  scandalous, 
and  partly  offensive  to  pious  ears."  They  recommended  that 
a  bull  be  drawn  up  condemning  these  propositions  without  men- 
tioning Luther's  name,  and  that  a  final  summons  be  sent  him 
to  come  to  Rome  and  recant.  In  other  words,  they  held  that 
a  peaceful  solution  of  the  problem  was  still  possible.  Following 
their  advice,  Leo  commanded  Volta  to  write  to  Staupitz  asking 
him  to  force  his  brother  to  recant.  Whether  Staupitz  tried  to 
obey  this  letter  of  March  15,  1520,  is  not  known ;  but  in  the 
following  August  he  resigned  his  office  in  the  order  and  shortly 
after  secured  a  dispensation  to  become  a  Dominican. 

Towards  the  end  of  March  a  sudden  and  decisive  change  in 
the  papal  policy  was  caused  by  the  arrival  of  Eck.  Since  the 
great  debate  this  zealous  Catholic  had  been  busy  going  around 
to  the  universities  trying  to  get  them  to  decide  in  his  favor  and 
condemn  Luther ;  two  of  them,  Cologne  and  Louvain,  did  so. 
Eck  then  turned  his  steps  to  Rome,  where  he  painted  his  enemy's 
heresy  in  such  black  colors  that  Leo  decided  there  was  nothing 
left  but  to  condemn  him,  and  accordingly  appointed  a  third 
commission,  of  Cajetan,  Eck,  Accolti,  and  the  Spanish  Augus- 
tinian  Johannes,  with  orders  to  draft  a  bull  for  this  purpose. 
Accolti  was  the  draftsman  for  the  committee;  the  theological 
material  was  largely  supplied  by  Eck  from  the  condemnation  of 
Luther's  doctrines  by  the  University  of  Louvain. 

The  bull  was  presented  for  ratification  before  a  consistory 
held  on  May  21,  which  decided,  before  promulgating  the  docu- 


ment,  to  hear  the  theologians  who  had  drawn  it  up.  This  was 
done  in  three  sittings  of  May  23,  May  25,  and  June  1.  No 
record  of  debates  in  these  consistories  has  been  published,  but 
the  fact  is  recorded  that  there  were  long  arguments  before  the 
bull  received  the  assent  of  the  College  of  Cardinals.  It  is  pos- 
sible that  a  peace  party  was  against  the  use  of  force  even  at 
this  late  stage,  but  it  is  more  probable  that  the  opposition  came 
from  a  Spanish  cardinal,  Carvajal,  who  belonged  to  the  con- 
ciliar  party  in  the  Church  and  was  offended  by  the  designation 
of  Luther's  appeal  to  a  council  as  heretical.  Whatever  opposi- 
tion there  was,  however,  was  finally  overcome,  the  bull  was 
ratified  and  signed  by  Leo  at  his  hunting-lodge  at  Magliana  on 
June  15. 

According  to  the  provision  of  the  Canon  Law,  that  before  a 
heretic  is  finally  condemned  he  must  be  given  a  fatherly  warn- 
ing, this  bull,  Exsurge  Domine,  does  not  excommunicate  Luther, 
but  only  threatens  this  penalty  in  case  he  does  not  recant  within 
sixty  days  after  its  publication  in  Germany.  Beginning  with 
the  words :  "Arise,  Lord,  plead  thine  own  cause,  arise  and  pro- 
tect the  vineyard  thou  gavest  Peter  from  the  wild  beast  who  is 
devouring  it,"  the  bull  sets  forth  some  of  the  professor's  opinions, 
quoted  apart  from  their  context,  designates  them  as  "either 
heretical,  or  false,  or  scandalous,  or  offensive  to  pious  ears,  or 
misleading  to  the  simple,"  and  condemns  them.  If,  after  all 
the  Pope's  fatherly  care  and  admonition,  Luther  does  not  recant 
within  sixty  days  after  the  posting  of  the  bull  in  Germany,  he 
is  to  be  declared  a  stiff-necked,  notorious,  damned  heretic,  and 
must  expect  the  penalties  due  to  his  crime. 

Before  this  document  was  ratified,  Cardinal  Raphael  Riario 
had  written  the  Elector,  May  20,  urging  him  to  force  the  heretic 
to  recant  or  expect  the  consequences.  The  letter  only  arrived  on 
July  6,  and,  as  we  have  seen  (p.  74),  made  a  great  impression 
upon  the  Wittenberg  professor.  Frederic  answered  it  quite 
promptly,  enclosing  An  Offer  or  Protestation  (Oblatio  sive 
Protestatio),  drawn  up  by  Luther,  proposing  to  leave  his  doc- 
trine to  the  arbitrament  of  impartial  judges.  This  arrived  in 
Rome  by  the  end  of  July. 

Eck,  who  had  been  so  instrumental  in  drawing  up  the  bull, 


was  commissioned  to  post  it  in  Germany.  Before  he  had  done 
so,  however,  the  document  had  been  published  there  (August) 
by  Ulrich  von  Hutten,  who  judged  that  it  would  injure  the 
Church  more  than  her  enemy.  Eck  posted  it  officially  at 
Meissen,  Merseburg,  and  Brandenburg  near  the  end  of  Septem- 
ber. He  also  tried  to  force  it  on  the  universities  of  Germany, 
many  of  whom  declined  to  receive  it  on  technical  grounds.  At 
Wittenberg  the  faculty  would  have  nothing  to  do  with  it,  and 
at  Erfurt  the  students  seized  all  the  printed  copies  and  threw 
them  into  the  river. 

Having  threatened  the  heretic  with  excommunication,  Rome 
left  no  stone  unturned  to  secure  his  condemnation  by  the  Empire. 
Charles  was  coming  from  Spain  to  be  crowned  in  October,  1520, 
and  to  hold  his  first  diet  at  Worms  early  in  1521.  To  him  and 
to  the  nation  Leo  dispatched  two  nuncios,  Aleander  and 
Caracciola.  Leaving  Rome  on  July  27, 1520,  Aleander  arrived 
in  Cologne,  where  he  published  the  bull  on  September  22.  Four 
days  later  he  was  in  Antwerp,  and  on  September  28,  he  had 
an  audience  with  Charles  and  secured  from  him  the  first  decree 
against  Luther  and  his  followers  in  the  Netherlands.  On  Octo- 
ber  8,  the  indefatigable  legate  published  the  bull  at  Louvairi 
and  solemnly  burned  the  condemned  books,  at  the  same  time 
making  a  speech  violently  attacking  Erasmus,  who  lived  there, 
for  supporting  the  heretic.  For  this  Aleander  was  scored  in  a 
bitter  anonymous  satire — the  Acta  Academise  Lovaniensis  — 
which  may  have  come  from  the  pen  of  the  great  humanist.  On 
October  17,  the  nuncio  did  at  LiSge  what  he  had  done  at 
Lou  vain. 

Charles  was  crowned  Emperor  at  Aix-la-Chapelle  on  Octo- 
ber 23.  The  plague  breaking  out  in  the  overcrowded  town,  the 
royal  suite,  including  the  legate,  was  forced  to  leave  soon  after, 
and  went  to  Cologne,  where  they  arrived  on  October  28.  Here 
they  found  the  Elector  Frederic,  who,  having  started  to  attend 
the  coronation,  had  been  detained  by  an  attack  of  gout.  He 
had  posted  up  Luther's  Offer  and  Protestation,  and  had  with 
him  a  letter  from  the  monk  to  the  Emperor,  written  about 
August  31.   It  is  a  humble  appeal :  — 


That  I  dare  to  approach  your  Most  Serene  Majesty  with  a  letter, 
most  excellent  Emperor  Charles,  will  rightly  cause  wonder  to  all.  A 
single  flea  dares  to  address  the  king  of  kings.  But  the  wonder  will 
be  less  if  the  greatness  of  the  cause  is  considered,  for  as  truth  is 
worthy  to  approach  the  cause  of  celestial  Majesty,  it  cannot  be  un- 
worthy to  appear  before  an  earthly  prince.  It  is  a  fair  thing  for 
earthly  princes,  as  images  of  the  heavenly  Prince,  to  imitate  him,  as 
they  also  sit  on  high,  but  must  have  respect  for  the  humble  things  of 
the  earth  and  raise  up  the  poor  and  needy  from  the  mire.  Therefore 
I,  poor  and  needy,  the  unworthy  representative  of  a  most  worthy 
cause,  prostrate  myself  before  the  feet  of  your  Most  Serene  Majesty. 

I  have  published  certain  books,  which  have  kindled  the  hatred  and  in- 
dignation of  great  men  against  me,  but  I  ought  to  be  protected  by  you 
for  two  reasons :  first,  because  I  come  unwillingly  before  the  public,  and 
only  wrote  when  provoked  by  the  violence  and  fraud  of  others,  seeking 
nothing  more  earnestly  than  to  hide  in  a  corner,  and  secondly,  be- 
cause, as  my  conscience  and  the  judgment  of  excellent  men  will 
testify,  I  studied  only  to  proclaim  the  gospel  truth  against  the  super- 
stitious traditions  of  men.  Almost  three  years  have  elapsed,  during 
which  I  have  suffered  infinite  wrath,  contumely,  danger,  and  whatever 
injuries  they  can  contrive  against  me.  In  vain  I  seek  respite,  in  vain 
I  offer  silence,  in  vain  propose  conditions  of  peace,  in  vain  beg  to  be 
better  instructed ;  the  only  thing  that  will  satisfy  them  is  for  me  to 
perish  utterly  with  the  whole  gospel. 

When  I  had  attempted  all  in  vain,  I  hoped  to  follow  the  precedent 
of  Athanasius  and  appeal  to  the  Emperor.  ...  So  I  commend  my- 
self, so  I  trust,  so  I  hope  in  your  Most  Sacred  Majesty,  whom  may 
our  Lord  Jesus  preserve  to  us  and  magnify  for  the  eternal  glory  of 
his  gospel.   Amen. 

Again  on  October  3,  1520,  Luther  had  written  Spalatin :  — 

Many  think  I  should  ask  the  Elector  to  obtain  an  imperial  edict  in 
my  favor,  declaring  that  I  should  not  be  condemned  nor  my  books 
prohibited  except  by  warrant  of  Scripture.  Please  find  out  what  is  in- 
tended ;  I  care  little  either  way,  because  I  rather  dislike  having  my 
books  so  widely  spread,  and  should  prefer  to  have  them  all  fall  into 
oblivion  together,  for  they  are  desultory  and  unpolished,  and  yet  I  do 
want  the  matters  they  treat  of  known  to  all.  But  not  all  can  separate 
the  gold  from  the  dross  in  my  works,  nor  is  it  necessary,  since  better 
books  and  Bibles  are  easily  obtainable. 


It  was  in  accordance  with  the  plan  here  indicated  that  on 
October  31  the  Elector  had  a  conference  with  the  Emperor  in 
the  sacristy  of  the  cathedral,  and  the  latter  promised  that  he 
would  allow  Luther  the  way  of  the  law  which  the  professor 
himself  had  proposed. 

On  Sunday,  November  4,  the  legates  also  obtained  an  audi- 
ence with  Frederic.  Aleander  handed  him  a  letter  certifying 
that  he  was  commissioned  by  the  Pope,  and  demanded,  first, 
that  the  heretic's  books  be  burned,  and  second,  that  he.  be 
either  punished  by  Frederic  or  delivered  up  bound.  The  next 
day  the  Elector  sent  for  Erasmus,  who  happened  to  be  in  the 
city,  and  asked  him  if  Luther  had  erred.  For  answer  he  re- 
ceived the  winged  word,  which  flew  to  the  farthest  ends  of 
Germany :  "  Yes.  He  has  erred  in  two  points,  in  attacking  the 
crown  of  the  Pope  and  the  bellies  of  the  monks."  The  learned 
humanist  drew  up  twenty-two  short  propositions  which  he 
called  Axioms,  stating  the  best  solution  of  the  difficulty  would 
be  for  the  Pope  to  recommend  the  decision  of  the  matter  to  a 
tribunal  of  learned  and  impartial  men.  On  a  second  interview 
with  the  nuncios  on  November  6,  Frederic  refused  their  re- 
quests and  insisted  on  such  a  court  as  Erasmus  had  recom- 

The  time  given  Luther  to  recant  expired  on  one  of  the  last 
days  of  November.  Instead  of  doing  so,  however,  he  hit  back 
at  his  oppressors  with  his  usual  spirit.  He  first  published  two 
short  manifestoes,  Against  the  New  Bull  forged  by  Eck,  —  for 
like  Erasmus  he  doubted  the  genuineness  of  the  document,  — 
and  Against  the  Execrable  Bull  of  Antichrist.  But  his  most 
dramatic  answer  was  solemnly  to  burn  the  bull  along  with  the 
whole  Canon  Law.  The  notice  to  the  students,  drawn  up  and 
posted  by  Melanchthon  on  the  early  morning  of  December  10, 
reads  as  follows  :  — 

Let  whosoever  adheres  to  the  truth  of  the  gospel  be  present  at  nine 
o'clock  at  the  church  of  the  Holy  Cross  outside  the  walls,  where  the 
impious  books  of  papal  decrees  and  scholastic  theology  will  be  burnt 
according  to  ancient  and  apostolic  usage,  inasmuch  as  the  boldness  of 
the  enemies  of  the  gospel  has  waxed  so  great  that  they  daily  burn  the 

THE  BURNING  OF  TFE  POPE'S  3ULL    ■  101 

evangelic  books  of  Luther.  Come,  pious  and  zealous  youth,  to  this 
pious  and  religious  spectacle,  for  perchance  now  is  the  time  when  the 
Antichrist  must  be  revealed ! 

At  the  set  time  a  large  crowd  gathered  just  outside  the  Elster 
gate,  near  the  Black  Cloister,  but  beyond  the  walls ;  the  stud- 
ents built  a  pyre,  a  certain  "  master,"  probably  Melanchthon, 
lighted  it,  and  Luther  threw  on  the  whole  Canon  Law  with  the 
last  bull  of  Leo  X,  whom  he  apostrophized  in  these  solemn 
words:  "  Because  thou  hast  brought  down  the  truth  of  God,  he 
also  brings  thee  down  unto  this  fire  to-day.  Amen." *  Others 
threw  on  works  of  the  schoolmen  and  some  of  Eck  and  Emser. 
After  the  professors  had  gone  home,  the  students  sang  funeral 
songs  and  disported  themselves  at  the  Pope's  expense. 

Luther  now  justified  his  act  by  publishing  an  Assertion  of 
All  the  Articles  Condemned  by  the  Last  Bull  of  Antichrist,  which 
appeared  in  Latin  in  December,  1520,  and  in  German  in  March, 
1521.  In  this  he  states  that  his  positions  have  not  been  refuted 
by  Scripture  in  the  bull  —  whether  that  document  is  genuine  or 
not.  But  if  one  cannot  found  his  creed  on  the  Bible  now,  he 
adds,  why  did  Augustine  have  the  right  to  do  it  eleven  hundred 
years  ago  ?  He  then  takes  up,  one  by  one,  the  forty-one  articles 
condemned  and  proves  that  they  are  right.  In  view  of  later  de- 
velopments the  most  interesting  of  these  proofs  is  that  of  the 
36th  article,  on  free  will.  Since  the  fall  of  man,  says  the  Wit- 
tenberg professor,  free  will  is  simply  a  name  ;  when  a  man  does 
what  is  in  him  he  sins  mortally.  He  cites  Augustine  to  the  effect 
that  free  will  without  grace  is  able  to  do  nothing  but  sin.  He 
quotes  many  texts  of  the  Bible  to  prove  this  point  and  argues  it 
at  length. 

Nothing  was  now  left  to  the  Church  but  to  excommunicate 
the  rebel  and  fulfil  the  threat  of  the  Exsurge  Domine.  The 
"  holy  curse  "  was  drawn  up  and  signed  at  Rome  on  January  3, 
1521,  and  sent  to  Aleander  to  publish  in  Germany.  It  banned 
not  only  Luther  but  Hutten,  Pirkheimer,  and  Spengler,  and 
denounced  the  Elector  Frederic.  The  wise  leg-ate  received  the 
terrible  document  at  the  Diet  of  Worms,  and  rightly  fearing 

1  Quonian  tu  conturbasti  veritatem  dei,  conturbat  et  te  hodie  in  ignem  istura, 
amen.  —  Cf .  Joshua  vii,  25. 


that  in  this  form  "  it  would  prove  destructive  to  the  cause  of 
the  Church,"  sent  it  back  with  a  recommendation  to  modify  it. 
This  was  done ;  in  its  final  form  the  bull  Decet  Pontificem 
Eomanum  confined  itself  to  excommunicating  the  heresiarch, 
and  was  then,  May  6,  published  at  Worms,  three  weeks  after 
he  had  already  been  heard  by  the  Diet. 


THE  DIET  OF  WORMS.    1521 

From  Cologne  Charles  V  proceeded  to  Mayence  and  thence 
to  "Worms,  where  he  was  about  to  open  his  first  diet.  The  varied 
programme  of  the  national  assembly  included  the  drafting  of 
a  constitution  for  the  Empire  and  the  formulation  of  griev- 
ances against  the  tyranny  of  the  Roman  hierarchy.  It  could 
hardly  hope  to  avoid  the  religious  question  then  agitating  the 
whole  nation,  but  the  unprecedented  course  of  summoning 
the  heretic  to  answer  before  the  representatives  of  his  nation 
was  not  decided  on  until  after  the  estates  had  been  sitting  for 
a  month. 

Luther  himself,  in  appealing  to  the  Emperor,  did  not  expect 
to  be  called  before  the  Diet ;  he  hoped  to  be  allowed  to  defend 
his  doctrines  before  a  specially  appointed  tribunal  of  able  and 
impartial  theologians.  This  plan  was  pressed  quietly  but  vigor- 
ously by  Erasmus,  the  foremost  living  man  of  letters.  Besides 
his  action  in  urging  Frederic  to  insist  on  such  a  trial  for  his  sub- 
ject, the  great  humanist  had,  at  Cologne,  handed  to  the  coun- 
sellors of  the  Emperor  a  short  memorial,  Advice  of  One  heartily 
wishing  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  proposing  the  appointment 
of  such  a  commission.  He  partly  won  over  the  Emperor's  con- 
fessor, Glapion,  but  Chidvres  and  Gattinara,  the  real  powers  be- 
hind the  imperial  throne,  remained  in  opposition.  A  little  later 
at  Worms,  John  Faber,  a  Dominican  friar,  came  forward  with 
a  similar  plan,  composed  with  the  help  of  Erasmus. 

Such  a  solution  of  the  difficulty  would  have  been  most  dis- 
tasteful to  the  Curia.  Regarding  the  Wittenberg  professor's 
opinions  as  res  adjudicatce,  the  Romanists  saw  no  reason  for 
giving  him  a  chance  to  defend  them,  and  wished  only  to  punish 
the  man  already  condemned.  This  course  was  urged  by  Alean- 
der,  an  extremely  able  and  unscrupulous  diplomat.  His  chief 
support  was  the  young  emperor,  whose  formal,  backward  mind 


failed  to  comprehend  and  even  detested  any  variation  from  the 
faith  in  which  he  had  been  brought  up.  Though  by  no  means 
a  fool,  he  was  a  dull  man,  slow  to  learn  and  slow  to  forget,  but 
possessed  of  two  extremely  valuable  qualities,  moderation  and 
persistence.  Of  the  Lutheran  affair  he  had  no  understanding 
whatever.  Not  being  able  to  speak  German,  he  was  unable  to 
sympathize  with  even  the  nationalist  side  of  the  formidable 
movement.  On  May  12, 1520,  Manuel,  his  ambassador  at  Rome, 
suggested  that  he  use  Luther  as  a  lever  to  wring  concessions 
from  the  Pope,  but  the  idea  found  no  root  in  his  mind ;  from 
the  first  his  opposition  to  the  schismatic  was  a  foregone  con- 

Aleander  worked  with  admirable  diligence  and  consummate 
ability  to  win  powerful  supporters  among  the  electors  and  great 
men  of  Germany.  By  skilful  negotiation  and  concession  he 
secured  the  adhesion  of  Joachim  I  of  Brandenburg,  for  many 
years  the  leader  of  the  Catholic  party  in  Germany.  He  tried 
hard  to  get  the  unqualified  backing  of  Albert  of  Mayence  by 
the  same  means,  but  failed,  partly  because  of  the  counter  nego- 
tiations of  Erasmus  and  his  friend  Capito.  The  Elector  of 
Mayence  therefore  represented  a  mediating  policy. 

Aleander's  strongest  opponent  was  Frederic  of  Saxony, 
"that  fox  and  basilisk,"  as  he  called  him,  a  crafty  states- 
man who  knew  well  how  to  protect  his  obnoxious  subject 
without  too  deeply  involving  himself.  Among  the  other  mem- 
bers of  the  college,  the  Elector  Palatine  was  not  unfavorable 
to  Luther. 

The  common  people  were  strongly  in  favor  of  Luther.  "  Nine 
tenths  of  the  Germans,"  wrote  Aleander,  "  shout  *  Long  live 
Luther,'  and  the  other  tenth  'Death  to  Rome.'"  Foremost 
among  his  adherents  was  Hutten,  who  with  his  followers  hung 
like  a  cloud  near  Worms,  threatening  to  burst  and  sweep 
away  the  Papists  should  any  harm  come  to  the  bold  monk  of 

When  the  alternative  plan  of  Aleander  to  summon  Luther, 
not  before  an  impartial  tribunal  to  discuss  his  doctrines,  but 
before  the  estates  to  recant,  was  announced  to  him  in  Witten- 
berg he  wrote  as  follows  :  - — 



Wittenberg,  December  21,  1520. 

Greeting.  To-day  I  received  copies  of  your  letter  from  Allstedt 
and  also  of  that  from  Kindelbrtick  asking  me  what  I  would  do  were 
I  summoned  before  the  Emperor  Charles  as  my  enemies  wish,  in  case 
I  could  go  without  danger  to  the  gospel  and  the  public  safety. 

If  I  am  summoned  I  will  go  if  I  possibly  can  ;  I  will  go  ill  if  I 
cannot  go  well.  For  it  is  not  right  to  doubt  if  I  am  summoned 
by  the  Emperor  I  am  summoned  by  the  Lord.  He  lives  and  reigns 
who  saved  the  three  Hebrew  children  in  the  furnace  of  the  king 
of  Babylon.  If  he  does  not  wish  to  save  me,  my  life  is  a  little  thing 
compared  to  that  of  Christ,  who  was  slain  in  the  most  shameful  way, 
to  the  scandal  of  all  and  the  ruin  of  many.  Here  is  no  place  to  weigh 
risk  and  safety  ;  rather  we  should  take  care  not  to  abandon  the  gospel 
which  we  have  begun  to  preach  to  be  mocked  by  the  wicked,  lest 
we  give  cause  to  our  enemies  of  boasting  that  we  dare  not  confess 
what  we  teach  and  shed  our  blood  for  it.  May  Christ  the  merciful 
prevent  such  cowardice  on  our  part  and  such  a  triumph  on  theirs. 
Amen.  .  .  . 

It  is  certainly  not  for  us  to  determine  how  much  danger  to  the 
gospel  will  accrue  by  my  death.  .  .  . 

One  duty  is  left  for  us :  to  pray  that  the  Empire  be  saved  from 
impiety  and  that  Charles  may  not  stain  the  first  year  of  his  reign 
with  my  blood  or  with  that  of  any  other.  I  should  prefer,  as  I  have 
quite  often  said,  to  perish  only  at  the  hands  of  the  Romanists  so  that 
the  Emperor  may  not  be  involved  in  my  cause.  You  know  what 
nemesis  dogged  Sigismund  after  the  execution  of  Huss  ;  he  had  no 
success  after  that  and  he  died  without  heirs,  for  his  daughter's  son 
Ladislaus  perished,  so  that  his  name  was  wiped  out  in  one  generation 
and  moreover  his  queen  Barbara  became  infamous  as  you  know,  to- 
gether with  the  other  misfortunes  which  befel  him.  Yet  if  it  be  the 
Lord's  will  that  I  must  perish  at  the  hands  not  of  the  priests  but  of 
the  civil  authorities,  may  his  will  be  done.  Amen. 

Now  you  have  my  plan  and  purpose.  You  may  expect  me  to  do 
anything  but  flee  or  recant ;  I  will  not  flee,  much  less  will  I  recant. 
May  the  Lord  Jesus  strengthen  me  in  this.  For  I  can  do  neither  with- 
out peril  to  religion  and  to  the  salvation  of  many.  .  .  . 

In  similar  tone  Luther  wrote  a  month  later  to  his  best 



Wittenberg,  January  25,  1521. 

Most  serene,  highborn  Prince,  most  gracious  Lord !  My  poor  prayers 
and  humble  obedience  are  always  at  your  Grace's  service. 

I  have  received  with  humble  thankfulness  and  pleasure  your  Grace's 
information  about  his  Imperial  and  Royal  Majesty's  intentions  regard- 
ing my  affair,  and  I  humbly  thank  his  Imperial  Majesty  and  your 
Grace  for  your  favor.  I  rejoice  from  my  heart  that  his  Imperial  Maj- 
esty proposes  to  take  up  this  business,  which  is  rather  God's,  Christen- 
dom's, and  the  German  Nation's  than  mine  or  that  of  any  individual. 

I  am  humbly  ready,  as  I  always  have  been,  and  as  I  have  often 
said  I  would  be  (especially  in  a  pamphlet  recently  published  of  which 
I  am  sending  your  Grace  a  copy),  to  do  and  allow  all  that  may  be  done 
with  God  and  Christian  honor,  or  all  which  I  shall  be  convinced  by- 
honorable,  Christian,  and  sufficient  reasons  of  Holy  Writ  that  I  ought 
to  do  or  allow. 

Therefore  I  humbly  pray  your  Grace  to  pray  his  Imperial  Majesty 
to  provide  me  with  sufficient  protection  and  a  free  safe-conduct  for  all 
emergencies,  and  that  his  Imperial  Majesty  should  command  the  busi- 
ness to  be  recommended  to  pious,  learned,  impartial  Christian  men, 
both  clerical  and  lay,  who  are  well  grounded  in  the  Bible,  and  have 
understanding  of  the  difference  between  human  laws  and  ordinances. 
Let  such  men  try  me,  and,  for  God's  sake,  use  no  force  against  me 
until  I  am  proved  unchristian  and  wrong.  Let  his  Majesty,  as  the 
temporal  head  of  Christendom,  in  the  mean  time  restrain  my  adversa- 
ries, the  papists,  from  accomplishing  their  raging,  unchristian  plans 
against  me,  such  as  burning  my  books  and  grimly  laying  snares  for 
my  body,  honor,  well-being,  life,  and  salvation,  although  I  am  unheard 
and  unconvicted.  And  if  I,  more  for  the  protection  of  the  divine,  evan- 
gelic truth,  than  for  the  sake  of  my  own  little  and  unworthy  person, 
have  done  aught  against  them,  or  shall  be  compelled  to  do  aught,  may 
his  Majesty  graciously  excuse  my  necessary  means  of  protection,  and 
keep  me  in  his  gracious  care  to  save  the  Divine  Word.  I  now  con- 
fidently commit  myself  to  the  virtue  and  grace  of  his  Majesty,  and  of 
your  Grace  and  all  Christian  princes,  as  to  my  most  gracious  lords. 

And  so  I  am,  in  humble  obedience,  ready,  in  case  I  obtain  sufficient 
surety  and  a  safe-conduct,  to  appear  before  the  next  Diet  at  Worms  and 
before  learned,  pious,  and  impartial  judges,  to  answer  to  them  with  the 
help  of  the  Almighty,  that  all  men  may  know  in  truth  that  I  have  hitherto 


done  nothing  from  criminal,  reckless,  disordered  motives,  for  the  sake  of 
worldly  honor  and  profit,  but  that  all  which  I  have  written  and  taught 
has  been  according  to  my  conscience  and  sworn  duty  as  a  teacher  of 
the  Holy  Bible,  for  the  praise  of  God  and  for  the  profit  and  salvation 
of  all  Christendom  and  the  advantage  of  the  German  nation,  in  order 
to  extirpate  dangerous  abuses  and  superstitions  and  to  free  Christen- 
dom from  so  great,  infinite,  unchristian,  damnable,  tyrannical  injury, 
molestation,  and  blasphemy. 

Your  Grace  and  his  Majesty  will  have  an  eye  and  a  care  to  the 
much  troubled  state  of  all  Christendom ;  as  your  Grace's  chaplain  I 
am  humbly  and  dutifully  bound  to  pray  God  for  his  mercy  and  favor 
on  you  and  his  Imperial  Majesty  at  all  times. 

Your  Grace's  obedient,  humble  chaplain, 

Martin  Luther. 

Now,  if  ever,  Luther's  plain  heroism  showed  itself.  Daily 
expecting  an  awful  crisis  not  only  in  his  own  life  but  in  all  that 
he  held  dearer,  he  went  quietly  about  his  business,  teaching, 
preaching,  and  doing  whatever  his  hand  found  to  do.  While 
writing  polemics  "  against  ten  hydras  "  his  deeply  untroubled 
spiritual  life  found  expression  in  a  tract  on  the  Magnificat,  in 
which  Mary's  canticle  became  again  the  song  of  the  triumph  of 
the  lowly  and  the  meek.  His  determination  to  stand  fast  never 
wavered ;  he  often  quoted  Christ's  words  that  whoso  denied  his 
Lord  before  men  would  be  denied  by  him  before  his  Heavenly 
Father.  While  so  firm  himself,  he  was  much  saddened  by  the 
irresolution  of  some  of  his  friends,  especially  of  his  still  beloved 
and  revered  Staupitz.  After  laying  down  his  office  as  Vicar  of 
the  Augustinians,  the  old  man  had  retired  to  distant  Salzburg, 
where  the  learned  and  orthodox  archbishop,  Cardinal  Lang, 
received  him  warmly.  But  even  here  he  could  not  escape  the 
tumult  of  the  battle ;  for  Lang  tried  hard  to  get  him  to  denounce 
Luther  openly.  On  January  4,  1521,  Staupitz  wrote  pathetic- 
ally to  Link,  acknowledging  that  "Martin  has  undertaken  a 
hard  task  and  acts  with  great  courage  illuminated  by  God ;  I 
stammer  and  am  a  child  needing  milk."  Nevertheless  but  a 
little  later  he  wrote  an  open  letter  submitting  himself  to  the 
.  judgment  of  the  Pope,  a  document  intended  as  a  compromise 
and  as  non-committal,  but  one  which  was  generally  taken  as  a 


renunciation  of  the  reformed  teaching.  On  seeing  the  declara- 
tion, Luther  wrote  Staupitz  a  letter  equally  solemn  and  gentle ; 
he  does  not  judge  his  old  friend,  but  it  is  impossible  not  to  feel 
all  the  more  strongly  the  contrast  between  the  irresolution  of 
the  one  man  and  the  unyielding  courage  of  the  other; 


Wittenberg,  February  9,  1521. 

Greeting.  I  wonder,  reverend  Father,  that  my  letters  and  pamphlets 
have  not  reached  you,  as  I  gather  from  your  letter  to  Link  that  they 
have  not.  Intercourse  with  men  takes  so  much  of  my  time  that  preach- 
ing unto  others  I  have  myself  become  a  castaway.  .  .  . 

At  Worms  they  have  as  yet  done  nothing  against  me,  although  the 
papists  contrive  harm  with  extraordinary  fury.  Yet  Spalatin  writes 
the  Evangelic  cause  has  so  much  favor  there  that  he  does  not  expect 
I  shall  be  condemned  unheard.  .  .  . 

I  -have  heard  with  no  great  pain  that  you  are  attacked  by  Pope  Leo, 
for  thus  the  cross  you  have  preached  to  others  you  may  exemplify 
yourself.  I  hope  that  wolf,  for  you  honor  him  too  much  to  call  him 
a  Lion  (Leo),  will  not  be  satisfied  with  your  declaration,  which  will  be 
interpreted  to  mean  that  you  deny  me  and  mine,  inasmuch  as  you 
submit  to  the  Pope's  judgment. 

If  Christ  love  you  he  will  make  you  revoke  that  declaration,  since 
the  Pope's  bull  must  condemn  all  you  have  hitherto  taught  and  believed 
about  the  mercy  of  God.  As  you  knew  this  would  be  the  case,  it  seems 
to  me  that  you  offend  Christ  in  proposing  Leo  for  a  judge,  whom  you 
see  to  be  an  enemy  of  Christ  running  wild  (debacchari)  against  the 
Word  of  his  grace.  You  should  have  stood  up  for  Christ  and  have  con- 
tradicted the  Pope's  impiety.  This  is  not  the  time  to  tremble  but  to  cry 
aloud,  while  our  Lord  Jesus  is  being  condemned,  burned,  and  blas- 
phemed. Wherefore  as  much  as  you  exhort  me  to  humility  I  exhort  you 
to  pride.  You  are  too  yielding,  I  am  too  stiff-necked. 

Indeed  it  is  a  solemn  matter.  We  see  Christ  suffer.  Should  we  keep 
silence  and  humble  ourselves  ?  Now  that  our  dearest  Saviour,  who  gave 
himself  for  us,  is  made  a  mock  in  the  world,  should  we  not  fight  and 
offer  our  lives  for  him  ?  Dear  father,  the  present  crisis  is  graver  than 
many  think.  Now  applies  the  gospel  text :  "  Whosoever  shall  confess 
me  before  men,  him  shall  the  Son  of  man  also  confess  before  the  angels 
of  God,  but  whosoever  shall  be  ashamed  of  me  and  my  words,  of  him 
shall  the  Son  of  man  be  ashamed  when  he  shall  come  in  his  glory." 


May  I  be  found  guilty  of  pride,  avarice,  adultery,  murder,  opposition 
to  the  Pope,  and  all  other  sins  rather  than  be  silent  when  the  Lord 
suffers  and  says :  "  I  looked  on  my  right  hand  and  beheld,  but  there 
was  no  man  that  would  know  me  :  refuge  failed  me ;  no  man  cared 
for  my  soul."  By  confessing  him  I  hope  to  be  absolved  from  all  my 
sins.  Wherefore  I  have  raised  my  horns  with  confidence  against  the 
Roman  idol,  and  the  true  Antichrist.  The  word  of  Christ  is  not  the 
word  of  peace  but  the  word  of  the  sword.  But  why  should  I,  a  fool, 
teach  a  wise  man  ? 

I  write  this  more  confidently  because  I  fear  you  will  take  a  middle 
course  between  Christ  and  the  Pope,  who  are  now,  you  see,  in  bitter 
strife.  But  let  us  pray  that  the  Lord  Jesus  with  the  breath  of  his 
mouth  will  destroy  this  son  of  perdition.  If  you  do  not  wish  to,  at  least 
let  me  go  and  be  bound.  With  Christ's  aid  I  will  not  keep  still  about 
this  monster's  crimes  before  his  face. 

Truly  your  submission  has  saddened  me  not  a  little,  and  has  shown 
me  that  you  are  different  from  that  Staupitz  who  was  the  herald  of 
grace  and  of  the  cross.  If  you  had  said  what  you  did,  before  you  knew 
of  the  bull  and  of  the  shame  of  Christ,  you  would  not  have  saddened 

Hutten  and  many  others  write  strongly  for  me  and  daily  those  songs 
are  sung  which  delight  not  that  Babylon.  Our  elector  acts  as  con- 
stantly as  prudently  and  faithfully,  and  at  his  command  I  am  publish- 
ing my  Defence x  in  both  languages.  .  .  . 

In  the  mean  time  Luther's  enemies  were  not  idle.  Aleander 
addressed  the  Diet  on  February  18,  painting  the  new  heresy  in 
the  blackest  colors,  touching  lightly  on  the  points  with  which 
the  Germans  would  sympathize,  but  bearing  his  whole  weight 
on  certain  opinions  relative  to  the  sacrament  which  would  shock 
most  of  them,  and  demanding,  in  conclusion,  that  proper  steps 
be  takeu  to  extirpate  the  impending  schism  and  its  author. 
After  a  stormy  debate  the  Estates  decided  to  summon  Luther  to 
recant  the  objectionable  heresies,  and  to  be  questioned  on  cer- 
tain other  points,  those,  namely,  relative  to  the  power  of  the 
Pope  and  the  grievances  of  the  German  nation.  The  Emperor 
accordingly  drew  up  a  formal  summons,  addressing  the  excom- 
municated man  as  "  honorable,  dear,  and  pious,"  giving  as  the 

1  The  Articles  Wrongly  Condemned  by  the  Bull  appeared  in  Latin  in  January 
and  in  German  in  March. 


purpose  of  the  citation  "  to  obtain  information  about  certain 
doctrines  originating  with  you  and  certain  books  written  by  you," 
and  assuring  certain  safe-conduct  to  and  from  the  Diet.  Charles 
also  endeavored  to  get  the  Diet  to  pass  a  decree  for  the  burning 
of  the  heretic's  books,  but  failing  in  this,  he  issued  a  mandate 
on  his  own  responsibility  directing  that  they  be  delivered  up  to 
the  magistrate  and  no  more  copies  be  printed. 

Even  now  an  attempt  was  made  by  the  party  of  mediation  to 
obtain  a  declaration  from  Luther  which  would  obviate  the  neces- 
sity of  his  appearance  before  the  Diet.  Glapion,  the  Emperor's 
confessor,  possibly  acting  at  the  suggestion  of  Erasmus,  held  a 
friendly  interview  with  Spalatin  in  which  he  pointed  out  that 
all  might  be  amicably  settled  if  Luther  would  repudiate  a  few 
articles.  These  he  had  drawn  from  the  Assertion  of  all  the 
Articles  Wrongly  Condemned,  and  from  the  Babylonian  Captiv- 
ity ;  the  latter  he  thought  might  be  the  more  easily  given  up,  as 
the  book  had  appeared  anonymously.  When  these  articles  were 
forwarded  by  Spalatin,  the  Wittenberg  professor  replied  as 
follows :  — 


Wittenberg,  March  19,  1521. 
Greeting.  I  have  received  the  articles  they  ask  me  to  recant,  with 
the  list  of  things  they  want  me  to  do.  Doubt  not  that  I  shall  recant 
nothing,  as  I  see  that  they  rely  on  no  other  argument  than  that  I  have 
written  (as  they  pretend)  against  the  usages  and  customs  of  the  Church. 
I  shall  answer  the  Emperor  Charles  that  if  I  am  summoned  solely  for 
the  sake  of  recantation  I  shall  not  come,  seeing  that  it  is  all  the  same 
as  if  I  had  gone  thither  and  returned  here.  For  I  can  recant  just  as 
well  here  if  that  is  their  only  business.  But  if  he  wishes  to  summon 
me  to  my  death,  holding  me  an  enemy  of  the  Empire,  I  shall  offer  to 
go.  I  will  not  flee,  Christ  helping  me,  nor  abandon  his  Word  in  the 
battle.  I  am  assuredly  convinced  that  those  bloody  men  will  never  rest 
until  they  slay  me.  I  wish  if  it  were  possible  that  only  the  Pope's  fol- 
lowers should  be  guilty  of  my  blood.  We  are  turned  heathen  again  as 
we  were  before  Christ,  so  firmly  does  Antichrist  hold  the  kingdoms 
of  this  world  captive  in  his  hand.  The  Lord's  will  be  done.  Use  your 
influence,  where   you   can,  not  to  take   part   in  this  council  of  the 

ungodly.  ... 

Martin  Luther,  Augustinian. 


The  expected  summons  and  safe-conduct  reached  Luther  on 
March  26.  After  quietly  finishing  some  literary  work,  he  set 
out,  on  April  2,  accompanied  by  his  colleague  Amsdorf,  a  bro- 
ther monk,  and  a  talented  young  student  named  Swaven.  Horses 
and  wagon  were  provided  by  the  town,  and  the  university  voted 
twenty  gulden  to  cover  the  necessary  expenses.  The  journey 
was  a  triumphal  progress ;  the  people  thronged  to  see  the  bold 
asserter  of  the  rights  of  conscience.  At  Erfurt,  where  Luther 
preached,  he  was  given  a  rousing  reception  by  the  students  and 
their  professor,  the  humanist  Eoban  Hess.  Notwithstanding 
popular  sympathy,  there  was  considerable  danger  in  going  to 
Worms :  in  spite  of  an  imperial  safe-conduct,  Huss  had  been 
burned.  When  Spalatin  wrote  reminding  his  friend  of  this  pre- 
cedent, he  received  the  following  answer :  — 


Frankfort  on  the  Main  (April  14),  1521. 

I  am  coming,  dear  Spalatin,  even  if  Satan  tries  to  prevent  me  hy 
a  worse  disease  than  that  from  which  I  am  now  suffering,  for  I  have 
been  ill  all  the  way  from  Eisenach,  and  am  yet  ill,  in  a  way  I  have  not 
hitherto  experienced. 

I  know  that  the  mandate  of  Charles  has  been  published  to  terrify  me. 
Truly  Christ  lives  and  I  shall  enter  Worms  in  the  face  of  the  gates  of 
hell  and  the  princes  of  the  air.  I  send  copies  of  the  Emperor's  sum- 
mons. I  think  better  not  to  write  more  until  I  can  see  on  the  spot 
what  is  to  be  done,  lest  perchance  I  should  puff  up  Satan,  whom  I 
propose  rather  to  terrify  and  despise.  Therefore  prepare  a  lodging. 

Martin  Luther.1 

Finding  that  Luther  was  not  to  be  intimidated,  the  Cath- 
olics, who  were  more  frightened  than  he  was,  tried  by  a  strata- 
gem to  prevent  his  appearance  or  at  least  to  delay  it  until  the 
time  granted  had  expired.  The  Emperor's  confessor,  Glapion, 

1  Spalatin  says  in  his  Annalen  {edition  of  Cyprian,  1718,  p.  38)  that  Luther 
wrote  him  from  Oppenheim,  where  he  arrived  April  15,  that  he  would  enter 
Worms  if  there  were  as  many  devils  there  as  tiles  on  the  roofs.  It  is  probable  that 
Spalatin  was  thinking-  of  this  letter,  or  some  expression  used  at  another  time  (cf. 
Tischreden,  ed.  by  Forstemann  and  Bindseil,  iv,  34S),  as  it  is  almost  inconceivable 
that  he,  who  preserved  so  many  of  his  friend's  letters,  should  have  lost  this  im- 
portant one. 


in  an  interview  with  Sickingen,  Hutten,  and  Bucer,  assumed  a 
friendly  attitude,  and  proposed  that  instead  of  exposing  himself 
to  the  danger  of  an  appearance  the  heretic  should  hold  a  private 
conference  with  himself  in  a  neighboring  castle.  Bucer  was 
dispatched  with  this  proposition.  Luther  knew  no  way  but  the 
direct  one,  however,  and  proceeded. 

On  the  morning  of  April  16  he  arrived  at  his  destination, 
greeted  by  a  vast  concourse  of  people,  and  took  up  his  abode  in 
the  hostel  of  the  Knights  of  St.  John.  He  was  summoned  to  the 
Diet  the  next  day  at  four  o'clock,  though  he  was  not  admitted 
until  nearly  six. 

Few  moments  in  history  have  been  at  once  so  dramatic  and 
so  decisive  as  that  in  which  Luther  appeared  before  the  Emperor 
and  Diet  at  Worms.  In  the  greatness  of  the  tribunal,  of  the  ac- 
cused, and  of  the  issues  involved,  nothing  is  lacking  to  impress 
a  thoughtful  mind.  In  the  foreground  of  the  assembly  sat  the 
young  Emperor,  on  whose  brows  were  united  the  vast,  if  shad- 
owy, pretensions  to  Roman  dominion  and  the  weight  of  actual 
sovereignty  over  a  large  congeries  of  powerful  states.  Around 
him  were  the  great  princes  of  the  realm,  spiritual  and  temporal, 
and  the  representatives  of  the  Free  Cities  of  Germany.  The 
nuncios,  representing  the  supreme  power  of  the  Church,  were 
conspicuous  by  their  absence  ;  the  Pope  would  not  even  hear  the 
rebel  in  his  own  defence. 

The  son  of  peasants  now  stood  before  the  son  of  Caesars  :  the 
poor  and  till  lately  obscure  monk  before  a  body  professing  to 
represent  the  official  voice  of  united  Christendom.  To  challenge 
an  infamous  death  was  the  least  part  of  his  courage :  to  set  up 
his  own  individual  belief  and  conscience  against  the  deliberate, 
ancient,  almost  universal  opinion  of  mankind  required  an  audac- 
ity no  less  than  sublime. 

And  how  much  depended  on  his  answer  !  The  stake  he  played 
for  was  not  his  own  life,  nor  even  the  triumph  of  this  religion 
or  of  that :  it  was  the  cause  of  human  progress.  The  system 
against  which  he  protested  had  become  the  enemy  of  progress 
and  of  reason  :  the  Church  had  become  hopelessly  corrupt  and 
had  sought  to  bind  the  human  mind  in  fetters,  stamping  out  in 
blood  all  struggles  for  freedom  and  light.  Hitherto  her  efforts 


had  been  successful :  the  Waldenses  had  perished ;  Wieliffe  had 
spoken  and  Huss  had  died  in  vain.  But  now  the  times  were  ripe 
for  a  revolution ;  men  only  needed  the  leader  to  show  them  the 

The  proceedings  were  short  and  simple.  An  officer  first  warned 
the  prisoner  at  the  bar  that  he  must  say  nothing  except  in 
answer  to  the  questions  asked  him.  Then  JohnJEck,  Official  of 
Trier  (not  to  be  confounded  with  the  debater  of  the  same  name), 
asked  him  if  the  books  lying  on  the  table  were  his  and  whether 
he  wished  to  hold  to  all  that  he  had  said  in  them  or  to  recant 
some  part.  At  this  point  Jerome  Schurf,  a  jurist  friendly  to 
the  Wittenberg  monk,  cried  out :  "Let  the  titles  of  the  books 
be  read."  When  this  had  been  done,  Luther  replied :  — 

His  Imperial  Majesty  asks  me  two  things,  first,  whether  these  books 
are  mine,  and  secondly,  whether  I  will  stand  by  them  or  recant  part  of 
what  I  have  published.  First,  the  books  are  mine,  I  deny  none  of  them. 
The  second  question,  whether  I  will  reassert  all  or  recant  what  is  said 
to  have  been  written  without  warrant  of  Scripture,  concerns  faith  and 
the  salvation  of  souls  and  the  Divine  Word,  than  which  nothing  is 
greater  in  heaven  or  on  earth,  and  which  we  all  ought  to  reverence  ; 
therefore  it  would  be  rash  and  dangerous  to  say  anything  without 
due  consideration,  since  I  might  say  more  than  the  thing  demands  or 
less  than  the  truth,  either  of  which  would  bring  me  in  danger  of  the 
sentence  of  Christ.  "Whoso  shall  deny  me  before  men,  him  will  I  also 
deny  before  my  Father  in  heaven."  Wherefore  I  humbly  beg  your 
Imperial  Majesty  to  grant  me  time  for  deliberation,  that  I  may  answer 
without  injury  to  the  Divine  Word  or  peril  to  my  soul. 

After  consulting  the  Emperor  and  his  advisers,  Eck  replied  : 

Although,  Martin,  you  knew  from  the  imperial  mandate  why  you 
were  summoned,  and  therefore  do  not  deserve  to  have  a  longer  time 
given  you,  yet  his  Imperial  Majesty  of  his  great  clemency  grants  you 
one  day  more,  commanding  th,at  you  appear  to-morrow  at  this  time  and 
deliver  your  answer  orally  and  not  in  writing. 

Though  Luther  knew  the  general  reason  of  his  summons,  he 
had  been  surprised  by  the  form  in  which  the  question  was  put 
to  him.  He  had  expected  that  certain  articles  would  be  brought 
forward  and  that  he  would  have  an  opportunity  to  state  the 


reasons  why  he  held  them  and  to  defend  them  in  debate.  When 
he  was  required  to  recant  point-blank,  without  any  chance  to 
present  his  case  and  without  hearing  what  particular  things  he 
was  to  recant,  he  was  taken  unprepared.  Seeing  how  necessary 
it  was  to  have  his  answer  in  exact  form,  he  had  only  done  the 
wisest  thing.  Some,  however,  inferred  from  his  request  and  from 
the  low  tone  in  which  it  was  uttered,  that  his  spirit  was  broken. 
How  little  this  was  the  case  may  be  seen  by  a  letter  written  the 
same  evening  to  an  imperial  counsellor  and  humanist  at  Vienna, 
John  Cuspinian.  After  leaving  the  assembly  hall,  Luther  went 
to  his  lodgings,  where  he  was  visited  by  nobles  and  others  who 
wished  him  well.  Among  them  was  George  Cuspinian,  a  canon 
of  Wiirzburg,  who  had  followed  his  bishop  to  the  Diet.  He  gave 
such  warm  assurances  of  good-will  from  his  cousin,  the  more 
noted  John,  that  the  Reformer  found  time  to  acknowledge 
them :  — 


Worms,  April  17,  1521. 

Greeting.  Your  brother,2  most  famous  Cuspinian,  has  easily  per- 
suaded me  to  write  to  you  from  the  midst  of  this  tumult,  since  I  have 
long  wished  to  become  personally  acquainted  with  you  on  account  of 
your  celebrity.  Take  me,  therefore,  into  the  register  of  your  friends, 
that  I  may  prove  the  truth  of  what  your  brother  has  so  generously 
told  me  of  you. 

This  hour  I  have  stood  before  the  Emperor  and  Diet,  asked  whether 
I  would  revoke  my  books.  To  which  I  answered  that  the  books  were 
indeed  mine,  but  that  I  would  give  them  my  reply  about  recanting 
to-morrow,  having  asked  and  obtained  no  longer  time  for  considera- 
tion. Truly,  with  Christ's  aid,  I  shall  never  recant  one  jot  or  tittle. 
Farewell,  my  dear  Cuspinian. 

1  The  text  of  this  letter  is  full  of  mistakes  in  all  the  printed  editions,  includ- 
ing Enders,  iii,  122.  A  facsimile  of  the  original  in  the  archives  of  Vienna  was 
published  by  T.  Haase  in  the  Leipziger  Illudrierte  Zeitung  for  August  31,  1889, 
and  the  text  printed  by  me  in  American  Journal  of  Theology,  April,  1910. 

2  Frater  carnis  tuse.  I  follow  Haase  in  identifying  this  brother  with  Cus- 
pinian's  cousin.  Professor  G.  Kawerau  suggested  to  me  in  conversation  that 
Luther's  words  would  naturally  mean  "  brother-in-law."  Cuspinian  had  a  brother- 
in-law  (brother  of  his  first  wife)  named  Ulrich  Putch,  and  a  brother,  Niklas 
Spiessheimer.  Cf .  H.  Ankwicz :  "  Das  Tagebuch  Cuspinians,"  Archiv  fur  oster- 
reichische  Geschichtsforschung,  xxx  (1909),  304  and  325. 


The  following  day  he  appeared  at  the  same  hour  before  the 
august  assembly.  Eck  addressed  him  in  an  oration  of  which 
the  following  summary  is  given  by  one  present,  probably 
Spalatin  :  — 

His  Imperial  Majesty  has  assigned  this  time  to  you,  Martin 
Luther,  to  answer  for  the  books  which  you  yesterday  openly  acknow- 
ledged to  be  yours.  You  asked  time  to  deliberate  on  the  question 
whether  you  would  take  back  part  of  what  you  had  said  or  would 
stand  by  all  of  it.  You  did  not  deserve  this  respite,  which  has  now 
come  to  an  end,  for  you  knew  long  before  why  you  were  summoned. 
And  every  one  —  especially  a  professor  of  theology  —  ought  to  be  so 
certain  of  his  faith  that  whenever  questioned  about  it  he  can  give 
a  sure  and  positive  answer.  Now  at  last  reply  to  the  demand  of  his 
Majesty,  whose  clemency  you  have  experienced  in  obtaining  time  to 
deliberate.  Do  you  wish  to  defend  all  of  your  books  or  to  retract  part 
of  them  ? 

Luther,  now  certain  of  what  to  say,  made  a  great  oration,  at 
first  in  German  and  then  in  Latin,  the  substance  of  which,  as 
written  down  by  himself  immediately  afterwards,  is  here  trans- 
lated :  — 

Most  Serene  Emperor,  Most  Illustrious  Princes,  Most  Clement  Lords ! 
At  the  time  fixed  yesterday  I  obediently  appear,  begging  for  the 
mercy  of  God,  that  your  Most  Serene  Majesty  and  your  Illustrious 
Lordships  may  deign  to  hear  this  cause,  which  I  hope  may  be  called 
the  cause  of  justice  and  truth,  with  clemency ;  and  if,  by  my  inex- 
perience, I  should  fail  to  give  any  one  the  titles  due  him,  or  should 
sin  against  the  etiquette  of  the  court,  please  forgive  me,  as  a  man  who 
has  lived  not  in  courts  but  in  monastic  nooks,  one  who  can  say  nothing 
for  himself  but  that  he  has  hitherto  tried  to  teach  and  to  write  with 
a  sincere  mind  and  single  eye  to  the  glory  of  God  and  the  edification 
of  Christians. 

Most  Serene  Emperor,  Most  Illustrious  Princes !  Two  questions 
were  asked  me  yesterday.  To  the  first,  whether  I  would  recognize 
that  the  books  published  under  my  name  were  mine,  I  gave  a  plain 
answer,  to  which  I  hold  and  will  hold  forever,  namely,  that  the  books 
are  mine,  as  I  published  them,  unless  perchance  it  may  have  happened 
that  the  guile  or  meddlesome  wisdom  of  my  opponents  has  changed 
something  in  them.  For  I  only  recognize  what  has  been  written  by 
myself  alone,  and  not  the  interpretation  added  by  another. 


In  reply  to  the  second  question  I  beg  your  Most  Sacred  Majesty 
and  your  lordships  to  be  pleased  to  consider  that  all  my  books  are  not 
of  the  same  kind. 

In  some  I  have  treated  piety,  faith,  and  morals  so  simply  and  ev- 
angelically that  my  adversaries  themselves  are  forced  to  confess  that 
these  books  are  useful,  innocent,  and  worthy  to  be  read  by  Christians. 
Even  the  bull,  though  fierce  and  cruel,  states  that  some  things  in  my 
books  are  harmless,  although  it  condemns  them  by  a  judgment  simply 
monstrous.  If,  therefore,  I  should  undertake  to  recant  these,  would  it 
not  happen  that  I  alone  of  all  men  should  damn  the  truth  which  all, 
friends  and  enemies  alike,  confess  ? 

The  second  class  of  my  works  inveighs  against  the  papacy  as 
against  that  which  both  by  precept  and  example  has  laid  waste  all 
Christendom,  body  and  soul.  No  one  can  deny  or  dissemble  this  fact, 
since  general  complaints  witness  that  the  consciences  of  all  believers 
are  snared,  harassed,  and  tormented  by  the  laws  of  the  Pope  and  the 
doctrines  of  men,  and  especially  that  the  goods  of  this  famous  Ger- 
man nation  have  been  and  are  devoured  in  numerous  and  ignoble 
ways.  Yet  the  Canon  Law  provides  (e.  g.,  distinctions  ix  and  xxv, 
quaestiones  1  and  2)  that  the  laws  and  doctrines  of  the  Pope  contrary 
to  the  Gospel  and  the  Fathers  are  to  be  held  erroneous  and  rejected. 
If,  therefore,  I  should  withdraw  these  books,  I  would  add  strength  to 
tyranny  and  open  windows  and  doors  to  their  impiety,  which  would 
then  flourish  and  burgeon  more  freely  than  it  ever  dared  before.  It 
would  come  to  pass  that  their  wickedness  would  go  unpunished,  and 
therefore  would  become  more  licentious  on  account  of  my  recantation, 
and  their  government  of  the  people,  thus  confirmed  and  established, 
would  become  intolerable,  especially  if  they  could  boast  that  I  had 
recanted  with  the  full  authority  of  your  Sacred  and  Most  Serene 
Majesty  and  of  the  whole  Roman  Empire.  Good  God  !  In  that  case 
I  would  be  the  tool  of  iniquity  and  tyranny. 

In  a  third  sort  of  books  I  have  written  against  some  private  indi- 
viduals who  tried  to  defend  the  Roman  tyranny  and  tear  down  my 
pious  doctrine.  In  these  I  confess  I  was  more  bitter  than  is  becoming 
to  a  minister  of  religion.  For  I  do  not  pose  as  a  saint,  nor  do  I  dis- 
cuss my  life  but  the  doctrine  of  Christ.  Yet  neither  is  it  right  for  me 
to  recant  what  I  have  said  in  these,  for  then  tyranny  and  impiety 
would  rage  and  reign  against  the  people  of  God  more  violently  than 
ever  by  reason  of  my  acquiescence. 

As  I  am  a  man  and  not  God,  I  wish  to  claim  no  other  defence  for 
my  doctrine  than  that  which  the  Lord  Jesus  put  forward  when  he  was 


questioned  before  Annas  and  smitten  by  a  servant :  he  then  said :  If 
I  have  spoken  evil,  bear  witness  of  the  evil.  If  the  Lord  himself,  who 
knew  that  he  could  not  err,  did  not  scorn  to  hear  testimony  against 
his  doctrine  from  a  miserable  servant,  how  much  more  should  I,  the 
dregs  of  men,  who  can  do  nothing  but  err,  seek  and  hope  that  some 
one  should  bear  witness  against  my  doctrine.  I  therefore  beg  by 
God's  mercy  that  if  your  Majesty  or  your  illustrious  Lordships,  from 
the  highest  to  the  lowest,  can  do  it,  you  should  bear  witness  and  con- 
vict me  of  error  and  conquer  me  by  proofs  drawn  from  the  gospels  or 
the  prophets,  for  I  am  most  ready  to  be  instructed  and  when  convinced 
will  be  the  first  to  throw  my  books  into  the  fire. 

From  this  I  think  it  is  sufficiently  clear  that  I  have  carefully  con- 
sidered and  weighed  the  discords,  perils,  emulation,  and  dissension  ex- 
cited by  my  teaching,  concerning  which  I  was  gravely  and  urgently 
admonished  yesterday.  To  me  the  happiest  side  of  the  whole  affair  is 
that  the  Word  of  God  is  made  the  object  of  emulation  and  dissent. 
For  this  is  the  course,  the  fate,  and  the  result  of  the  Word  of  God,  as 
Christ  says  :  "  I  am  come  not  to  send  peace  but  a  sword,  to  set  a  man 
against  his  father  and  a  daughter  against  her  mother."  We  must  con- 
sider that  our  God  is  wonderful  and  terrible  in  his  counsels.  If  we 
should  begin  to  heal  our  dissensions  by  damning  the  Word  of  God,  we 
should  only  turn  loose  an  intolerable  deluge  of  woes.  Let  us  take  care 
that  the  rule  of  this  excellent  youth,  Prince  Charles  ( in  whom,  next 
God,  there  is  much  hope),  does  not  begin  inauspiciously.  For  I  could 
show  by  many  examples  drawn  from  Scripture  that  when  Pharaoh  and 
the  king  of  Babylon  and  the  kings  of  Israel  thought  to  pacify  and 
strengthen  their  kingdoms  by  their  own  wisdom,  they  really  only 
ruined  themselves.  For  he  taketh  the  wise  in  their  own  craftiness  and 
removeth  mountains  and  they  know  it  not.  We  must  fear  God.  I  do 
not  say  this  as  though  your  lordships  needed  either  my  teaching  or 
my  admonition,  but  because  I  could  not  shirk  the  duty  I  owed  Ger- 
many. With  these  words  I  commend  myself  to  your  Majesty  and  your 
Lordships,  humbly  begging  that  you  will  not  let  my  enemies  make  me 
hateful  to  you  without  cause.  I  have  spoken. 

Eck  replied  with  threatening  mien :  — 

Luther,  you  have  not  answered  to  the  point.  You  ought  not  to  call 
in  question  what  has  been  decided  and  condemned  by  councils.  There- 
fore I  beg  you  to  give  a  simple,  unsophisticated  answer  without  horns 
(non  cornutum).  Will  you  recant  or  not  ? 


Luther  retorted :  — 

Since  your  Majesty  and  your  Lordships  ask  for  a  plain  answer, 
I  will  give  you  one  without  either  horns  or  teeth.1  Unless  I  am 
convicted  by  Scripture  or  by  right  reason  (  for  I  trust  neither  in  popes 
nor  in  councils,  since  they  have  often  erred  and  contradicted  them- 
selves) —  unless  I  am  thus  convinced,  I  am  bound  by  the  texts  of  the 
Bible,  my  conscience  is  captive  to  the  Word  of  God,  I  neither  can 
nor  will  recant  anything,  since  it  is  neither  right  nor  safe  to  act 
against  conscience.  God  help  me.  Amen. 

The  Spaniards  in  the  audience  broke  into  groans  and  hisses, 
the  Germans  into  applause,  and  Luther  was  conducted  from 
the  hall  amid  an  incipient  tumult.  When  he  reached  his  lodg- 
ings, he  joyfully  exclaimed :  "  I  am  through  !  I  am  through  !  " 
He  had  indeed  done  the  great  deed  he  had  set  out  to  do  and 
spoken  the  words  which  will  ring  through  ages. 

But  his  business  at  Worms  was  not  yet  over.  The  moderate 
Catholics,  hoping  that  something  could  yet  be  accomplished, 
held  a  series  of  conferences  with  him.  Their  representatives 
were  Cochlaeus,  later  one  of  the  bitterest  enemies  of  the  Evan- 
gelic Church,  Dr.  Vehus,  chancellor  of  the  Margrave  of  Baden, 
and  the  Archbishop  Elector  of  Trier.  But  nothing  came  of  these 
negotiations.  Luther  hardened  himself,  as  one  of  his  opponents 
expressed  it,  like  a  rock. 

On  April  26  he  left  Worms.  Two  days  later  he  reached 
Frankfort  where  he  wrote  an  interesting  letter  to  Lucas  Cranach, 
his  warm  friend,  the  Wittenberg  artist.  In  1520  the  monk  had 
stood  godfather  to  the  painter's  little  daughter,  and  in  return 
Cranach  made  two  woodcuts  of  him,  the  one  in  1520,  the  other 
in  March,  1521.2  This  last,  giving  so  plain  an  impression  of 
iron  will  and  strength  of  character  that  all  who  run  may  read, 
is  perhaps  the  best  portrait  of  the  Reformer  in  existence. 

1  Neque  cornutum  neque  dentatura.  These  words,  which  have  puzzled  historians 
from  the  day  they  were  said  till  the  present,  have  been  the  subject  of  a  very  thor- 
ough investigation  by  R.  Meissner.  He  comes  to  the  conclusion  that  the  dentatum 
was  suggested  by  the  cornutum  (without  sophistry)  of  the  official,  but  had  no 
special  sense,  being  merely  an  "  overtrumping,"  or  improvement  on  his  meta- 

2  Referred  to  by  Luther  in  a  letter  to  Spalatin  March  7.  Enders,  iii,  106.  On 
Luther's  portraits  see  Appendix,  pp.  453,  454. 



Frankfort  on  the  Main,  April  28,  1521. 

My  service  to  you,  dear  friend  Lucas.  I  bless  and  commend  you  to 
God.  I  am  going  somewhere  to  hide,  though  I  myself  do  not  yet  know 
where.  I  should  indeed  suffer  death  at  the  hands  of  the  tyrants, 
especially  at  those  of  furious  Duke  George,  but  I  must  not  despise  the 
advice  of  good  men  nor  die  before  the  Lord's  time. 

They  did  not  expect  me  to  come  to  Worms,  and  what  my  safe-con- 
duct was  worth  you  all  know  from  the  mandate  that  went  out  against 
me.  I  thought  his  Majesty  the  Emperor  would  have  brought  together 
some  fifty  doctors  to  refute  the  monk  in  argument,  but  in  fact  all  they 
said  was :  "  Are  these  books  yours  ?  "  —  "  Yes."  —  "  Will  you  re- 
cant ?  "  —  "  No  !"  —  u  Then  get  out."  O  we  blind  Germans,  we  act  so 
childishly  and  let  ourselves  be  fooled  by  the  Romanists. 

Give  my  friend  your  wife  my  greeting  and  say  that  I  hope  she  is 

The  Jews  must  needs  sing  at  times  in  triumph,  "  Ho,  ho,  ho !  " 
But  Easter  will  come  to  us,  too,  and  then  we  shall  sing  Hallelujah. 
We  must  suffer  and  keep  silence  a  little  time.  A  little  while  and  ye 
shall  not  see  me,  and  again  a  little  while  and  ye  shall  see  me.  At 
least  I  hope  so,  but  God's  will,  which  is  best,  be  done,  as  in  heaven, 
so  on  earth.  Amen. 

Greet  Christian  Doring  and  his  wife.  Please  thank  the  town  council 
for  providing  the  carriage.  You  must  get  Amsdorf  to  preach,  as  he 
would  be  glad  to  do,  if  John  Doltsch  is  not  enough.  Good-bye !  God 
bless  you  and  keep  your  mind  and  faith  in  Christ  against  the  Roman 
wolves  and  serpents  and  their  adherents.  Amen. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

On  May  1  he  reached  Hersfeld,  where  he  was  royally  wel- 
comed by  the  abbot  of  the  Benedictine  monastery  and  where  he 
preached.  On  May  2  he  entered  his  dear  old  Eisenach,  where 
he  also  delivered  a  sermon  the  next  day.  On  the  third  he  drove 
through  the  beautiful  forests  to  Mohra,  his  father's  early  home, 
and  visited  his  uncle  Heinz  Luther.  On  the  morning  of  May  4 
he  preached  in  the  open  air,  and  after  dinner  set  out  in  the 
direction  of  Schloss  Altenstein  with  Amsdorf  and  a  brother 
monk.  In  the  heart  of  the  forest,  in  a  place  now  marked  by 
a  monument,  according  to 'a  preconcerted  plan  some  masked 
riders  appeared,  captured  the  banned  heretic,  and  rode  with  him 


back  in  the  direction  of  Eisenach  to  the  Wartburg,  the  castle 
in  which  the  Elector  had  decided  to  keep  him. 

In  the  mean  time  great  events  were  happening  at  Worms. 
Charles  had  been  sincerely  shocked  at  the  audacity  of  the  rebel 
monk.  The  usually  reserved  young  man  immediately  drew  up 
a  paper,  perhaps  the  one  frank  and  spontaneous  action  of  his 
whole  career,  stating  that  he  had  resolved  to  stake  life,  lands, 
and  all  on  the  maintenance  of  the  Catholic  faith  of  his  fathers. 
Aleander,  thinking  that  all  was  settled,  was  delighted.  After 
waiting  until  the  Elector  of  Saxony  and  other  supporters  of  the 
new  leader  had  left  Worms,  Charles  drafted  an  edict,  submitted 
it  for  approval  to  four  electors  and  a  few  remaining  members  of 
the  Diet,  and  signed  it  May  26  —  although  it  was  officially  dated 
May  8.  The  Edict  of  Worms  described  Luther's  doctrine  in  the 
strongest  terms  as  a  cesspool  of  heresies  old  and  new,  put  him 
under  the  ban  of  the  Empire,  forbade  any  to  shelter  him  and 
commanded  all,  under  strong  penalties,  to  give  him  up  to  the 
authorities.  It  was  also  forbidden  to  print,  sell,  or  read  his 

When  the  news  of  Luther's  disappearance  spread  throughout 
Europe  a  cry  of  dismay  arose  from  all  who  had  his  cause  at 
heart.  Albert  Diirer,  the  painter  of  Nuremberg,  an  ardent 
admirer  of  the  Reformer,  then  on  a  visit  to  Antwerp,  heard  the 
news  on  May  17. 

I  know  not  whether  he  yet  lives  or  is  murdered  [wrote  he  in  his 
diary],  but  in  any  case  he  has  suffered  for  the  Christian  truth.  .  .  . 
If  we  lose  this  man  who  has  written  more  clearly  than  any  one  who 
has  lived  for  one  hundred  and  forty  years,  may  God  grant  his  spirit 
to  another.  .  .  .  His  books  are  to  be  held  in  great  honor  and  not 
burned  as  the  Emperor  commands,  but  rather  the  books  of  his  ene- 
mies. O  God,  if  Luther  is  dead,  who  will  henceforth  expound  to  us 
the  gospel  ?  What  might  he  not  have  written  for  us  in  the  next  ten  or 
twenty  years  ? 

Another  glimpse  of  the  temper  of  the  people  is  given  in  an 
obscure  letter  of  Albert  Burer,  at  Kemberg,  near  Wittenberg, 
to  Basil  Amorbach,  written  June  30, 1521.  The  rustics,  he  says, 
if  they  meet  others  on  the  road,  inquire  of  them  :  "  Bistu  gutt 
Marteinisch  ?  "  and  beat  any  one  who  answers  in  the  negative. 


THE  WARTBURG.  MAY  4,  1521 -MARCH  1, 1522 

The  Wartburg,  about  a  mile  south  of  Eisenach,  is  one  of  the 
finest  old  Gothic  castles  in  Germany.  Majestically  crowning  a 
steep  hill,  it  commands  a  superb  view  of  the  lovely  Thuringian 
forest.  Surrounded  by  a  moat  and  guarded  by  drawbridge  and 
portcullis,  the  several  buildings  which  unite  to  make  up  the 
pile  are  grouped  around  two  courts.  The  largest  hall,  already 
old  in  Luther's  day,  is  famous  as  having  been,  in  the  twelfth 
century,  the  meeting-place  where  the  German  bards,  since 
immortalized  in  Wagner's  opera,  met  to  contend  the  palm.  The 
fortress  had  been  for  generations  the  abode  of  the  powerful, 
ostentatious  landgraves  of  Thuringia,  and  was  hallowed  by  the 
memory  of  St.  Elizabeth  of  Marburg,  the  wife  of  one  of  them. 

In  this  charming  spot  Luther  remained  hidden  almost  a 
year,  obeying  the  command  of  his  wary  sovereign.  The  room 
assigned  him  was  not  in  the  main  building,  but  in  a  small  one. 
It  was  reached  by  a  narrow  flight  of  stairs  which  led  im- 
mediately from  the  entrance  to  the  chamber.  It  has  been  pre- 
served as  it  was  in  his  day,  with  the  old  stove,  bedstead,  table, 
and  stump  which  served  as  a  stool.  As  he  sat  by  the  leaded 
glass  window,  his  eye  swept  the  wild  landscape  for  many  miles 
towards  the  west. 

Shortly  after  his  arrival,  he  wrote  Spalatin  a  long  and  inter- 
esting letter  describing  his  journey,  his  capture,  and  his  life 
and  work.  The  two  former  have  been  related  in  the  last  chap- 
ter, but  some  other  interesting  items  may  well  be  given  in  his 
own  words :  — 


The  Mountain,  May  14,  1521. 
Greeting.  I  received  your  letter,  dear  Spalatin,  and  those  of  Gerbel 
and  Sapidus  last  Sunday,  but  have  not  written  before  for  fear  lest  the 
notoriety  of  my  recent  capture  should  cause  some  one  to  intercept  the 


letters.  Various  opinions  of  my  disappearance  are  held  in  this  region, 
the  most  popular  being  that  I  was  captured  by  friends  from 

To-morrow  the  Emperor's  safe-conduct  expires.  I  regret  what  you 
write  about  their  savage  edict 1  for  trying  consciences,  not  so  much 
for  my  own  sake  as  because  they  are  inviting  evil  on  their  own  heads 
and  will  only  succeed  in  making  themselves  odious.  Such  indecent 
violence  will  only  arouse  deep  hatred.  But  let  it  pass,  perhaps  the 
time  of  their  visitation  is  at  hand.  .  .  .  We  see  that  the  people  are 
neither  able  nor  willing  —  as  Erasmus  also  wrote  in  his  Advice  2  —  to 
bear  the  yoke  of  the  Pope  and  the  papists ;  therefore  let  us  not  cease 
to  press  upon  it  and  to  pull  it  down,  especially  as  we  have  already 
lost  name  and  fame  by  so  doing.  Now  the  light  reveals  all  things  and 
their  show  of  piety  is  no  longer  valuable  and  cannot  rule  as  hitherto. 
We  have  grown  by  violence  and  driven  them  back  by  violence ;  we 
must  see  if  they  can  be  driven  back  any  more. 

I  sit  here  lazy  and  drunken  the  whole  day. 

I  am  reading  the  Greek  and  Hebrew  Bible.  .  .  . 

Now  I  have  put  off  my  old  garments  and  dress  like  a  knight,  let- 
ting hair  and  beard  grow  so  that  you  would  not  know  me  —  indeed  I 
have  hardly  become  acquainted  with  myself.  Now  I  am  in  Christian 
liberty,  free  from  all  tyrannical  laws,  though  I  should  have  preferred 
that  that  Dresden  hog  8  had  killed  me  publicly  while  preaching,  had 
God  pleased  that  I  should  suffer  for  his  Word.  The  Lord's  will  be 
done !  Farewell  and  pray  for  me.  Salute  all  the  court. 

Martin  Luther. 

Life  at  the  castle  was  indeed  a  change  from  the  routine  of 
Wittenberg.  The  disguised  prisoner  was  attended  by  two  pages 
of  gentle  blood  and  by  an  armed  guard.  The  warden,  John  von 
Berlepsch,  entertained  him  with  distinguished  courtesy.  The 
strict  incognito  did  not  prevent  constant  intercourse  with  friends, 
not  only  by  letters  privately  forwarded  but  by  personal  visits 
also.  He  strolled  through  the  woods  searching  for  strawberries 
and  even  hunted  a  little.    Pity  for  the  poor  animals  is  an  unex- 

1  On  April  30  the  Emperor  called  the  electors  and  princes  together  to  consult 
about  an  edict  against  Luther,  which  was  not,  however,  signed  until  May  26. 

2  Luther  is  probably  referring  to  the  Consilium  cujusdam  ex  animo  cupientis, 
etc.,  though  such  strong  views  as  these  are  hardly  expressed  therein. 

8  Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony.    Both  here  and  in  the  letter  to  Cranach, 
Luther  does  him  wrong,  for  he  advised  observing  the  safe-conduct. 


pected  and  amiable  trait  in  the  sturdy  peasant ;  it  is  a  matter  of 
course  that  St.  Francis  of  Assisi  should  save  a  hare  from  the 
trap,1  but  it  is  almost  surprising  that  Luther  should  do  the  same. 
Most  of  his  time,  however,  was  spent  in  the  little  cell  studying 
the  Bible  and  writing.  His  letters  are  full  of  his  experiences, 
and  it  is  perhaps  some  of  those  translated  below  of  which  Cole- 
ridge was  thinking  when  he  said  he  could  hardly  imagine  a  more 
delightful  book  than  Luther's  letters,  especially  those  written 
from  the  Wartburg.2  His  metaphysical  tastes,  however,  may 
have  led  him  to  prefer  the  discussions  of  knotty  points  in  theo- 
logy. His  references  to  "the  hearty  mother  tongue  of  the  orig- 
inal "  and  (in  his  table-talk)  to  "  the  racy  old  German"  are 
hardly  happy,  as  most  of  the  epistles  are  written  in  Latin :  — 


Isle  of  Patmos,  June  10,  1521. 

...  I  am  both  very  idle  and  very  busy  here,  I  study  Hebrew  and  Greek 
and  write  without  cessation.  The  warden  treats  me  far  better  than  I 
deserve.  The  trouble  with  which  I  suffered  at  Worms  has  not  left  me 
but  increased,  for  I  am  more  constipated  than  I  ever  was  and  despair 
of  a  remedy.  The  Lord  thus  visits  me,  that  I  may  never  be  without 
a  relic  of  the  cross.  Blessed  be  he.  Amen. 

I  wonder  that  the  imperial  edict  is  so  delayed.  In  my  retreat  I 
have  read  the  letters  against  me  sent  to  the  estates  of  the  Empire,  but 
I  find  them  faulty. 

It  is  rumored  that  Chievres 8  has  died  and  left  Charles  a  million 
gulden.  How  brave  is  Christ  not  to  fear  these  mountains  of  gold ! 
Would  that  they  might  learn  once  for  all  that  he  is  the  Lord  our  God. 

I  have  not  yet  answered  the  young  prince 4  for  fear  of  revealing  my 
hiding-place,  nor,  for  the  same  reason,  do  I  think  it  expedient  to  do 
so  now. 

Pray  for  me  diligently.  This  is  all  I  need,  as  other  things  abound. 
Now  that  I  am  at  rest  I  care  not  what  they  do  with  me  in  public. 
Farewell  in  the  Lord  and  greet  all  those  whom  you  think  it  safe  to  greet. 

Henricus  Nesicus.5 

1  Sabatier:  Vie  de  St.  Franqois  d1  Assise,  9th  ed.,  Paris,  1894,  p.  204. 

2  S.  T.  Coleridge :  The  Friend. 

8  Guillaume  de  Croy,  Seflor  de  Chievres,  one  of  the  Emperor's  counsellors. 
*  John  Frederic,  nephew  of  the  Elector  and  later  Elector. 
'  This  signature  is  an  unexplained  bit  of  humor. 



(Wartburq,)  August  15, 1521. 

Greeting.  Dear  Spalatin,  I  have  received  the  second  and  third  parts 
of  my  Sermon  on  Confession  from  you  and  the  first  part  from  Me- 
lanchthon.  I  cannot  say  how  sorry  and  disgusted  I  am  with  the  print- 
ing. I  wish  I  had  sent  nothing  in  German,  because  they  print  it  so 
poorly,  carelessly,  and  confusedly,  to  say  nothing  of  bad  types  and 
paper.  John  the  printer  is  always  the  same  old  Johnny.  Please  do 
not  let  him  print  any  of  my  German  Homilies,  but  return  them  for  me 
to  send  elsewhere.  What  is  the  use  of  my  working  so  hard  if  the  errors 
in  the  printed  books  give  occasion  to  other  publishers  to  make  them 
still  worse  ?  I  would  not  sin  so  against  the  gospels  and  epistles  ;  better 
let  them  remain  hidden  than  bring  them  out  in  such  form.  Therefore  I 
send  you  nothing  now,  although  I  have  a  good  deal  of  manuscript  ready. 
I  shall  forward  no  more  until  I  learn  that  these  sordid  mercenaries  care 
less  for  their  profits  than  for  the  public.  Such  printers  seem  to  think : 
"  It  is  enough  for  me  to  get  the  money  ;  let  the  readers  look  out  for  the 
matter."  .  .   . 

Do  not  be  anxious  about  my  exile.  It  makes  no  difference  to  me 
where  I  am.  But  I  fear  I  may  at  length  become  burdensome  to  the 
men  here.  I  wish  to  cause  expense  to  no  one.  I  think  I  am  living  at 
the  bounty  of  the  Elector,  and  could  not  stay  another  hour  if  I  thought 
I  was  consuming  the  substance  of  the  warden,  who  serves  me  in  all 
things  cheerfully  and  freely.  You  know  if  any  one's  wealth  must  be 
wasted  it  should  be  that  of  a  prince,  for  to  be  a  prince  and  not  a  robber 
is  hardly  possible,  and  the  greater  the  prince  the  harder  it  is.  Please 
inform  me  on  this  point.  I  cannot  understand  this  gentleman's  liberality 
unless  he  supports  me  from  the  Elector's  purse.  It  is  my  nature  to  be 
afraid  of  burdening  people  when  perchance  I  do  not,  but  such  a  scruple 
becomes  an  honorable  man. 

Last  week  I  hunted  two  days  to  see  what  that  bitter-sweet *  pleas- 
ure of  heroes  was  like.  We  took  two  hares  and  a  few  poor  partridges 
—  a  worthy  occupation  indeed  for  men  with  nothing  to  do.  I  even 
moralized  among  the  snares  and  dogs,  and  the  superficial  pleasure  I 
may  have  derived  from  the  hunt  was  equalled  by  the  pity  and  pain 
which  are  a  necessary  part  of  it.  It  is  an  image  of  the  devil  hunting 
innocent  little  creatures  with  his  gins  and  his  hounds,  the  impious 

1  "  y\vi<{nriKpov  "  one  of  the  Greek  words  inserted  as  the  author  progressed  in 
his  study  of  that  language. 


magistrates,  bishops  and  theologians.  I  deeply  felt  this  parable  of  the 
simple  and  faithful  soul.  A  still  more  cruel  parable  followed.  With 
great  pains  I  saved  a  little  live  rabbit,  and  rolled  it  up  in  the  sleeve  of 
my  cloak,  but  when  I  left  it  and  went  a  little  way  off  the  dogs  found  the 
poor  rabbit  and  killed  it  by  biting  its  right  leg  and  throat  through  the 
cloth.  Thus  do  the  Pope  and  Satan  rage  to  kill  souls  and  are  not 
stopped  by  my  labor.  I  am  sick  of  this  kind  of  hunting  and  prefer  to 
chase  bears,  wolves,  foxes,  and  that  sort  of  wicked  magistrate  with 
spear  and  arrow.  It  consoles  me  to  think  that  the  mystery  of  salva- 
tion is  near,  when  hares  and  innocent  creatures  will  be  captured  rather 
by  men  than  by  bears,  wolves,  and  hawks,  i.  e.y  the  bishops  and  theo- 
logians. I  mean  that  now  they  are  snared  into  hell,  then  they  will  be 
captured  for  heaven.  Thus  I  joke  with  you.  You  know  that  your 
nobles  would  be  beasts  of  prey  even  in  paradise.  Even  Christ  the 
greatest  hunter  could  hardly  capture  and  keep  them.  I  jest  with  you 
because  I  know  you  like  hunting. 

I  have  changed  my  mind  and  have  decided  to  send  the  rest  of  the 
Homilies,  thinking  that  as  they  are  begun  they  had  better  be  fin- 
ished. .  .  . 

The  writer's  ill  health  was  due  partly  to  the  rich  fare  and 
generally  sedentary  life,  and  partly,  perhaps,  to  a  reaction  after 
the  terrible  strain  of  the  preceding  weeks.  It  caused  the  tempta- 
tions and  especially  the  depression  of  which  he  often  speaks. 
Some  have  thought  that  it  was  also  at  the  bottom  of  those 
visions  of  the  devil  which  are  popularly  supposed  to  have  been 
frequent  at  the  Wartburg.  The  fact  is,  however,  that  not  only 
the  legend  of  the  inkstand  hurled  at  the  fiend,  but  every  other 
story  about  such  visions  receives  not  a  particle  of  support  from 
contemporary  sources.  In  all  his  letters  from  the  Wartburg, 
Luther  never  once  mentions  any  supernatural  experience,  nor 
even  in  his  work  On  the  Abuse  of  the  Mass,  where  he  makes 
special  mention  of  such  apparitions  in  general,  does  he  say  one 
word  of  his  ever  having  seen  any  himself.  That  he  occasionally 
spoke  of  them  long  afterwards  is  due  rather  to  an  hallucination 
of  memory  than  of  the  senses  at  the  time.  He  heard  some  noises 
in  the  old  spooky  castle,  so  slight  that  he  hardly  noticed  them, 
but  they  gradually  grew  in  memory,  so  that  he  could  say,  just 
ten  years  later :  — 


Satan  has  often  vexed  me  with  visions,  especially  at  the  Wartburg. 
One  night  while  I  was  there  he  took  some  walnuts  from  the  table  and 
kept  snapping  them  at  the  ceiling  all  night. 

As  he  told  this  story  over  and  over,  it  gradually  expanded 
with  the  years,  until,  in  its  final  form,  it  assumed  enormous 
proportions.  It  is  a  striking  illustration  of  the  fallibility  of 
human  memory  and  of  the  origin  of  ghost-stories,  and  demon- 
strates once  for  all  the  worthlessness  of  the  table-talk  as  an 
historical  source  for  events  of  long  antecedent  date.  Indeed 
only  as  an  illustration  of  these  points  the  story  has  interest. 
It  is  so  hopelessly  confused,  either  by  Luther  or  by  the  note- 
taker,  that  John  von  Berlepsch,  a  bachelor,  is  given  a  wife,  and 
two  rooms  are  spoken  of,  where  there  was,  in  reality,  but  one. 
This  was  at  the  head  of  one  flight  of  stairs,  with  no  other 
chamber  near  by.  Thus  it  is  that  the  story  appears  twenty-five 
years  after  the  visions  it  records :  — 

When  I  left  Worms  in  1521,  I  was  captured  near  Eisenach,  and 
dwelt  in  the  Wartburg,  my  Patmos.  I  was  far  from  people,  in  a  room 
where  no  one  could  come  to  me  but  two  boys  of  good  family,  who 
brought  me  food  and  drink  twice  a  day.  Once  they  brought  me  a  sack 
of  hazel  nuts,  which  I  ate  from  time  to  time.  I  kept  them  in  a  box. 
When  it  was  bedtime,  I  undressed  in  my  study,  put  out  the  light, 
went  into  my  chamber,  and  lay  down  in  bed.  Then  the  hazel  nuts 
began,  rose  up  one  after  another,  hit  the  rafters  hard  and  rattled  on 
the  bed,  but  I  did  nothing.  If  I  only  began  to  drop  off  to  sleep  such 
a  noise  started  on  the  steps  as  if  some  one  were  rolling  sixty  barrels 
down  the  stairs,  yet  I  knew  that  the  steps  were  closed  with  iron  bars 
so  that  no  one  could  get  to  them.  I  got  up,  went  to  the  stairs  to  see 
what  the  matter  was,  and  there  they  were  locked  up !  .  .  . 

Later  the  wife  of  John  von  Berlepsch,  who  had  heard  that  I  was  in 
the  castle,  wanted  to  see  me,  came,  but  they  would  not  let  her  see  me. 
But  they  took  me  to  another  room  and  the  lady  slept  in  my  chamber. 
There  she  heard  such  a  racket  in  the  room  hard-by  that  she  thought 
a  thousand  devils  were  in  it.  The  best  way  to  drive  out  the  fiend  is 
to  despise  him  and  call  on  Christ,  for  he  cannot  bear  that.  You  should 
say  to  him :  "  If  you  are  lord  over  Christ,  so  be  it !  "  That- is  what  I 
said  at  Eisenach. 

Whatever  may  have  been  at  the  base  of  this  astonishing  tale, 


5t  is  certain  that  at  the  "Wartburg  apparitions  from  the  next 
world  did  not  interfere  with  an  active  participation  in  the  busi- 
ness of  the  present  one.  A  lively  interest  in  public  affairs  was 
maintained  by  means  of  letters  forwarded  by  Spalatin.  Luther 
did  not  feel  called  upon  to  set  all  the  wrongs  in  the  world  right, 
but  he  was  strongly  inclined  to  intervene  when  he  heard  of  the 
deeds  of  his  old  enemy,  Albert  of  Mayence.  During  the  summer 
following  the  Diet  of  Worms,  Carlstadt  had  carried  on  reform 
measures  at  Wittenberg,  especially  insisting  that  the  clergy 
should  take  wives.  Luther  soon  wrote  in  favor  of  this,  but  even 
before  his  tract  was  published  a  number  of  priests  accepted 
Carlstadt's  invitation  to  marry.  Some  of  them  in  the  jurisdic- 
tion of  Mayence  were  arrested  by  Archbishop  Albert,  though 
that  notoriously  immoral  prelate  did  not  scruple  to  derive  an 
income  from  licenses  to  the  clergy  to  keep  concubines.  At  the 
same  time,  thinking  that  there  was  no  longer  any  danger,  he 
ventured  to  recommence  the  trade  in  indulgences  in  his  capital, 
Halle.  When  the  Reformer  heard  of  these  things  he  wrote 
a  fierce  and  reckless  tract,  Against  the  Idol  of  Halle,  which  he 
sent  Spalatin  to  have  printed.  The  Elector  refused  to  allow 
its  publication  for  reasons  of  state,  and  after  an  angry  protest, 
Luther  was  forced  to  agree  to  postpone  printing  the  obnoxious 
tract  until  he  had  remonstrated  privately  with  the  offending 
prelate :  — 


(The  Wartbubg,)  December  1, 1521. 
My  humble  service  to  your  Electoral  Grace,  my  honorable  and  gra- 
cious Lord.  Your  Grace  doubtless  remembers  vividly  that  I  have 
written  you  twice  before,  the  first  time  at  the  beginning  of  the  indulg- 
ence fraud  !  protected  by  your  Grace's  name.  In  that  letter  I  faith- 
fully warned  your  Grace  and  from  Christian  love  set  myself  against 
those  deceitful,  seducing,  greedy  preachers  thereof,  and  against  their 
heretical,  infidel  books.  Had  I  not  preferred  to  act  with  moderation 
I  might  have  driven  the. whole  storm  on  your  Grace  as  the  one  who 
aided  and  abetted  the  traders,  and  I  might  have  written  expressly 
against  their  heretical  books,  but  instead  I  spared  your  Grace  and  the 
house  of  Brandenburg,  thinking  that  your  Grace  might  have  acted 
1  October  31, 1517,  p.  42. 


through  ignorance,  led  astray  by  false  whisperers,  so  I  only  attacked 
them,  and  with  how  much  trouble  and  danger  your  Grace  knows. 

But  as  this  my  true  admonition  was  mocked  by  your  Grace,  ob- 
taining ingratitude  instead  of  thanks,  I  wrote  you  a  second  time,1 
humbly  asking  for  information.  To  this  I  got  a  hard,  improper,  un- 
episcopal,  unchristian  answer,2  referring  me  to  higher  powers  for 
information.  As  these  two  letters  did  no  good,  I  am  now  sending  your 
Grace  a  third  warning,  according  to  the  gospel,  this  time  in  German, 
hoping  that  such  admonition  and  prayer,  which  ought  to  be  superfluous 
and  unnecessary,  may  help. 

Your  Grace  has  again  erected  at  Halle  that  idol  which  robs  poor 
simple  Christians  of  their  money  and  their  souls.  You  have  thus  shown 
that  the  criminal  blunder  for  which  Tetzel  was  blamed  was  not  due  to 
him  alone,  but  also  to  the  Archbishop  of  Mayence,  who,  not  regarding 
my  gentleness  to  him,  insists  on  taking  all  the  blame  on  himself. 
Perhaps  your  Grace  thinks  I  am  no  more  to  be  reckoned  with,  but 
am  looking  out  for  my  own  safety,  and  that  his  Imperial  Majesty  has 
extinguished  the  poor  monk.  On  the  contrary,  I  wish  your  Grace  to 
know  that  I  will  do  what  Christian  love  demands  without  fearing  the 
gates  of  hell,  much  less  unlearned  popes,  bishops,  and  cardinals.  I  will 
not  suffer  it  nor  keep  silence  when  the  Archbishop  of  Mayence  gives 
out  that  it  is  none  of  his  business  to  give  information  to  a  poor  man 
who  asks  for  it.  The  truth  is  that  your  ignorance  is  wilful,  as  long 
as  the  thing  ignored  brings  you  in  money.  I  am  not  to  blame,  but  your 
own  conduct. 

I  humbly  pray  your  Grace,  therefore,  to  leave  poor  people  unde- 
ceived and  unrobbed,  and  show  yourself  a  bishop  rather  than  a  wolf. 
It  has  been  made  clear  enough  that  indulgences  are  only  knavery  and 
fraud,  and  that  only  Christ  should  be  preached  to  the  people,  so  that 
your  Grace  has  not  the  excuse  of  ignorance.  Your  Grace  will  please 
remember  the  beginning,  and  what  a  terrible  fire  was  kindled  from  a 
little  despised  spark,  and  how  all  the  world  was  surely  of  the  opinion 
that  a  single  poor  beggar  was  immeasurably  too  weak  for  the  Pope, 
and  was  undertaking  an  impossible  task.  But  God  willed  to  give  the 
Pope  and  his  followers  more  than  enough  to  do,  and  to  play  a  game 
contrary  to  the  expectation  of  the  world  and  in  spite  of  it,  so  that  the 
Pope  will  hardly  recover,  growing  daily  worse  and  one  may  see  God's 
work  therein.  Let  no  one  doubt  that  the  same  God  yet  lives  and 
knows  how  to  withstand  a  cardinal  of  Mayence  even  if  four  emperors 
support  him.  ... 

1  February  4,  1520.  a  February  26,  1520. 


Wherefore  I  write  to  tell  your  Grace  that  if  the  idol  is  not  taken 
down,  my  duty  to  godly  doctrine  and  Christian  salvation  will  abso- 
lutely force  me  to  attack  your  Grace  publicly  as  I  did  the  Pope,  and 
oppose  your  undertaking,  and  lay  all  the  odium  which  Tetzel  once  had 
on  the  Archbishop  of  Mayence,  and  show  all  the  world  the  difference 
between  a  bishop  and  a  wolf.  .  .  . 

Moreover  I  beg  your  Grace  to  leave  in  peace  the  priests  who,  to 
avoid  unchastity,  have  betaken  themselves  to  marriage.  Do  not  deprive 
them  of  their  God-given  rights.  Your  Grace  has  no  authority,  reason, 
nor  right  to  persecute  them,  and  arbitrary  crime  does  not  become  a 
bishop.  ...  So  your  Grace  can  see  that  if  you  do  not  take  care,  the 
Evangelic  party  will  raise  an  outcry  and  point  out  that  it  would  be- 
come a  bishop  first  to  cast  the  beam  out  of  his  own  eye  and  put  away 
his  harlots  before  he  separates  pious  wives  from  their  husbands.  ... 

I  will  not  keep  silence,  for,  though  I  do  not  expect  it,  I  hope  to 
make  the  bishops  leave  off  singing  their  lively  little  song.  .  .  . 

I  beg  and  expect  a  right  speedy  answer  from  your  Grace  within 
the  next  fortnight,  for  at  the  expiration  of  that  time  my  pamphlet 
against  the  Idol  of  Halle  will  be  published  unless  a  proper  answer 
comes.  And  if  this  letter  is  received  by  your  Grace's  secretaries  and 
does  not  come  into  your  own  hands,  I  will  not  hold  off  for  that  reason. 
Secretaries  should  be  true  and  a  bishop  should  so  order  his  court  that 
that  reaches  him  which  should  reach  him.  God  give  your  Grace  his 
grace  unto  a  right  mind  and  will. 

Your  Grace's  obedient,  humble  servant, 

Martin  Luther. 

The  desired  answer  came.  It  is  a  proof  of  the  great  power 
wielded  by  Luther,  that,  after  the  presentation  of  an  ultima- 
tum, the  primate  of  all  Germany  should  reply  with  abject 
submission  to  the  outlawed  heretic.  Albert  was,  indeed,  in  a 
difficult  situation,  for,  notwithstanding  a  rather  non-committal 
attitude  at  Worms  he  had  been  accused  of  having  had  Luther 
assassinated,  and  stood  in  mortal  terror  of  popular  vengeance. 
Both  now  and  later,  moreover,  the  Macchiavellian  prelate  sought 
to  run  with  the  hare  and  hunt  with  the  hounds.  While  continu- 
ing to  cultivate  the  friendship  of  Rome  he  anxiously  avoided 
a  breach  with  Wittenberg.  He  accordingly  induced  Capito,  a 
humanist  in  his  employ,  to  intercede  with  the  Reformer,  to  whom 
he  himself  indited  this  astonishing  missive :  — 



Halle,  December  21,  1521. 
My  dear  doctor,  I  have  received  your  letter  and  I  take  it  in  good 
part  and  graciously,  and  will  see  to  it  that  the  thing  that  moved  you 
so  be  done  away,  and  I  will  act,  God  willing,  as  becomes  a  pious, 
spiritual,  and  Christian  prince,  as  far  as  God  gives  me  grace  and 
strength,  for  which  I  earnestly  pray  and  have  prayers  said  for  me,  for 
I  can  do  nothing  of  myself  and  know  well  that  without  God's  grace 
there  is  no  good  in  me,  but  that  I  am  as  much  foul  mud  as  any  other, 
if  not  more.  I  do  not  wish  to  conceal  this,  for  I  am  more  than  willing 
to  show  you  grace  and  favor  for  Christ's  sake,  and  I  can  well  bear 
fraternal  and  Christian  punishment.  I  hope  the  merciful,  kind  God 
will  give  me  herein  more  grace,  strength  and  patience  to  live  in  this 
matter  and  in  others  by  his  will. 

Albert,  with  his  own  hand. 

No  wonder  that  the  recipient  was  nonplussed  by  this  letter, 
doubting  whether  it  showed  more  godly  contrition  or  devilish 
hypocrisy.  The  soft  answer  turned  away  his  wrath,  or  rather 
suspended  it  for  a  year,  when  the  polemic  against  the  Idol  of 
Halle  came  out  in  a  revised  form  under  the  title,  Against  the 
Estate  of  the  Pope  and  Bishops  falsely  called  Spiritual.  This 
bitter  pamphlet  attacks  the  "  idol-worship  "  and  vices  of  the 
higher  clergy  without  mercy. 

Luther  accomplished  an  enormous  amount  of  literary  work 
during  his  year  of  hiding.  One  of  his  largest  tasks  was  the 
composition  of  the  Postilla,  or  homilies  on  the  gospel  and 
epistle  for  each  Sunday. 

More  important  in  abiding  results  was  the  work  on  the  celi- 
bacy of  the  clergy.  When  Carlstadt,  the  Wittenberg  radical, 
came  forward  as  the  champion  of  marriage  of  priests,  monks, 
and  nuns,  Luther  was  by  no  means  clear  in  his  own  mind  about 
the  expediency  of  this  practice.  On  August  6,  1521,  he  wrote 
Spalatin :  — 

I  have  received  Carlstadt's  pamphlets.  Good  Heavens!  will  our 
Wittenbergers  give  wives  even  to  monks  ?  They  won't  force  one  on 
me.  .  .  .  Farewell,  pray  for  me  and  take  care  not  to  get  married 
for  fear  of  tribulation  of  the  flesh. 


And  again  on  August  15  :  — 

How  I  wish  that  Carlstadt  in  attacking  sacerdotal  celibacy  would 
quote  more  applicable  texts.  I  fear  he  will  excite  a  prejudice  against 
it.  .  .  .  It  is  a  noble  cause  he  has  taken  up,  I  wish  he  were  more 
equal  to  it.  For  you  see  how  clear  and  cogent  we  are  forced  to  be  on 
account  of  our  enemies,  who  calumniate  even  what  is  most  perspicuous 
and  convincing  in  our  arguments.  Wherefore  we,  who  are  a  spectacle 
to  the  world,  must  take  care  that  our  words  be  above  reproach,  as  Paul 
teaches.  Perhaps  I  am  meddling  with  matters  which  are  none  of  my 
business,  and  yet  they  are  my  business,  especially  if  he  succeeds.  For 
what  is  more  dangerous  than  to  invite  so  many  monks  and  nuns  to 
marry  and  urge  it  with  unconvincing  texts  of  Scripture,  by  complying 
with  which  invitation  the  consciences  of  the  parties  may  be  burdened 
with  an  eternal  cross  worse  than  they  now  bear.  I  wish  that  celibacy 
might  be  left  free,  as  the  gospel  requires,  but  how  to  add  to  that  prin- 
ciple I  know  not.  But  my  warnings  are  in  vain ;  Carlstadt's  career 
will  not  be  checked-  and  therefore  must  be  endured. 

Having  convinced  himself  that  the  cause  was  noble,  Luther 
undertook  to  find  adequate  arguments  in  support  of  it.  His 
first  essay  in  this  direction  was  a  mere  sketch  (Themata  de  votis), 
a  series  of  propositions  on  vows  sent  to  Wittenberg  for  debate. 
The  thesis  here  presented  is  that  all  that  is  not  done  by  faith  is 
sin,  and  that  monastic  vows  are  taken  in  reliance  on  good 
works  and  not  on  faith,  and  therefore  are  wrong.  Indeed  it  is 
tantamount  to  vowing  a  life  of  impiety,  and  moreover  it  destroys 
Christian  liberty. 

These  thoughts  took  form  in  a  treatise  On  Monastic  Vows, 
which  the  author  dedicated  to  his  father  in  the  following 
letter :  — 


The  Wilderness,  November  21, 1521. 

This  book,  dear  father,  I  wish  to  dedicate  to  you,  not  to  make  your 
name  famous  in  the  world,  for  fame  puffeth  up  the  flesh,  according  to 
the  doctrine  of  St.  Paul,  but  that  I  might  have  occasion  in  a  short 
preface  as  it  were  between  you  and  me  to  point  out  to  the  Christian 
reader  the  argument  and  contents  of  the  book,  together  with  an  illus- 
trative example.  .  .  . 

It  is  now  sixteen  years  since  I  became  a  monk,  having  taken  the 


vow  without  your  knowledge  and  against  your  will.  You  were  anxious 
and  fearful  about  my  weakness,  because  I  was  a  young  blood  of 
twenty-two,  that  is,  to  use  St.  Augustine's  words,  it  was  still  hot  youth 
with  me,  and  you  had  learned  from  numerous  examples  that  monkery 
made  many  unblessed  and  so  were  determined  to  marry  me  honorably 
and  tie  me  down.  This  fear,  this  anxiety,  this  non-consent  of  yours 
were  for  a  time  simply  irreconcilable 

And  indeed,  my  vow  was  not  worth  a  fig,  since  it  was  taken  with- 
out the  consent  of  the  parents  God  gave  me.  Moreover  it  was  a 
godless  vow  both  because  taken  against  your  will  and  without  my 
whole  heart.  In  short,  it  was  simple  doctrine  of  men,  that  is  of  the 
spiritual  estate  of  hypocrites,  a  doctrine  not  commanded  by  God.  .  .  . 

Dear  father,  will  you  still  take  me  out  of  the  cloister  ?  If  so,  do  not 
boast  of  it,  for  God  has  anticipated  you  and  taken  me  out  himself. 
What  difference  does  it  make  whether  I  retain  or  lay  aside  the  cowl 
and  the  tonsure.  Do  they  make  the  monk?  .  .  .  My  conscience  is 
free  and  redeemed ;  therefore  I  am  still  a  monk  but  not  a  monk,  and 
a  new  creature  not  of  the  Pope  but  of  Christ,  for  the  Pope  also,  has 
creatures  and  is  a  creator  of  puppets  and  idols  and  masks  and  straw 
men,  of  which  I  was  formerly  one,  but  now  have  escaped  by  the 
Word.  .  .  . 

The  Pope  may  strangle  me  and  condemn  me  and  bid  me  go  to  hell, 
but  he  will  not  be  able  to  rouse  me  after  death  to  strangle  me  again. 
To  be  banned  and  damned  is  according  to  my  own  heart  and  will. 
May  he  never  absolve  me  more !  I  hope  the  great  day  is  at  hand 
when  the  kingdom  of  abomination  and  horror  will  be  broken  and 
thrust  down.  Would  to  God  that  I  had  been  worthy  to  be  burned  by 
the  Pope !  .  .  . 

The  Lord  bless  you,  dear  father,  with  mother,  your  Margaret,  and 
all  our  family.  Farewell  in  the  Lord  Christ. 

The  work  itself  is  an  elaborate  inquiry  into  the  nature  of 
monasticism.  Some  vows  are  allowed,  but  one  must  distinguish 
between  the  good  and  the  bad,  for  the  more  holy  a  thing  is  the 
more  likely  it  is  to  be  perverted.  "  What  is  more  holy  than 
worship  which  is  the  first  commandment?  But  what  is  more 
common  than  superstition,  that  is,  false  and  perverted  wor- 
ship ?  "  No  vow  is  to  be  taken  except  according  to  the  Bible, 
—  the  very  opposite  of  monastic  rules.  If  the  Bible  allows  vir- 
ginity it  rather  deters  men  from  it  than  invites  them  to  it.  Sec- 


ondly,  vows  are  the  enemies  of  faith,  for  monastic  life  is  a  good 
work,  and  hence  outside  of  faith,  without  faith  and  sinful. 
Thirdly,  vows  are  hostile  to  Christian  liberty.  Fourthly,  they 
are  repugnant  to  God's  commands.  If  there  have  been  saints 
in  the  cloister,  it  has  not  been  because  of  the  cloister.  Monks 
forget  that  they  are  Christians  in  remembering  that  they  are 
Dominicans,  Franciscans,  or  Benedictines.  Vows  are  also  hostile 
to  charity.  Finally,  they  are  inimical  to  reason. 

This  book,  which  the  author  himself  judged  to  be  among  his 
most  important,  had  an  enormous  sale  and  great  influence  in 
its  own  day.  Needless  to  say,  for  us  it  has  only  an  historical 
interest,  though,  indeed,  an  eminent  Catholic  scholar  thought 
it  necessary,  only  a  few  years  ago,  to  refute  it  point  by  point. 
But  most  of  us  will  concur  in  the  judgment  of  Erasmus  when 
it  came  out  that  "it  is  very  garrulous." 

Far  greater  than  this  treatise  was  the  work  next  undertaken 
by  the  Reformer,  namely,  the  translation  of  the  Bible,  which 
from  this  time  on  was  the  constant  labor  of  his  life.  He  began 
with  the  New  Testament,  of  which  he  speaks  in  the  letter  next 
given :  — 


Thb  Wilderness,  December  13,  1521. 
I  do  not  approve  of  that  tumultuous  exodus  from  the  cloister,  for 
the  monks  should  have  separated  peaceably  and  in  charity.  At  the 
next  general  chapter  you  must  defend  and  cherish  the  Evangelic  cause, 
for  I  shall  lie  hidden  until  Easter.  In.  the  mean  time  I  shall  continue 
to  write  my  Homilies  and  shall  translate  the  New  Testament  into 
German,  a  thing  which  my  friends  demand  and  at  which  I  hear  that 
you  also  labor.  Would  that  every  town  had  its  interpreter,  and  that 
this  book  alone  might  be  on  the  tongues  and  in  the  hands,  the  eyes, 
the  ears,  and  the  hearts  of  all  men.  Ask  for  other  news  at  Wittenberg. 
I  am  well  in  body  and  well  cared  for,  but  am  buffeted  with  sin  and 
temptation.  Pray  for  me  and  farewell. 

Martin  Luther. 

The  work,  though  carefully  done,  was  prosecuted  with  such 
zeal  that  it  was  completed  within  three  months.  Of  the  methods, 
results,  and  peculiarities  of  this  translation  more  will  be  said  in 
a  separate  chapter.  Suffice  it  here  to  note  that  Luther  used  the 


Greek  text  edited  by  Erasmus  in  1516  and  supplied  with  a  new 
Latin  translation  in  parallel  columns.  It  is  possible  that  he  also 
had  by  him  one  or  more  of  the  older  German  translations,  of 
which  there  were  at  least  fourteen,  but  the  great  originality 
of  his  work  would  suggest  that  he  used  them  but  little. 


THE  WARTBURG.    1521-1522 

"While  Luther  was  in  retirement  at  the  beautiful  old  castle 
near  Eisenach,  the  movement  started  by  him  was  carried  on 
with  accelerated  velocity  at  Wittenberg.  Carlstadt's  attack  on 
sacerdotal  celibacy  was  only  the  first  step  in  a  revolution.  In 
this  movement  two  distinct  factors  combined,  the  one  of  con- 
structive reform,  the  other  of  popular  tumult;  the  best  ele- 
ments of  the  first  were  due  to  Luther,  who,  while  absent,  kept 
up  a  constant  correspondence  with  Wittenberg ;  for  the  second 
element  other  leaders  were  responsible,  Carlstadt,  Zwilling,  and 
the  Zwickau  prophets. 

The  constructive  reform  was  embodied  in  two  city  ordinances, 
the  first  of  November,  1521,  the  second  of  January  24,  1522. 
The  earlier  bit  of  legislation  provided  for  "  a  common  purse," 
that  is,  for  the  public  care  of  the  worthy  poor,  on  new  prin- 
ciples, deduced  from  the  Address  to  the  Nobility  and  the  larger 
Sermon  on  Usury.  It  will  be  remembered  how  in  his  great 
pamphlet  the  author  proposes  that  begging  be  prohibited.  This 
was  now  done  by  the  town  of  Wittenberg,  while  the  deserving 
poor,  i.  e.,  those  who  could  not  support  themselves,  were  provided 
for  from  funds  voluntarily  contributed  to  the  parish  church. 
That  not  only  the  ideas  but  the  form  of  this  ordinance  proceeded 
from  Luther  has  been  proved  from  a  first  draft  of  the  docu- 
ment in  his  hand  recently  discovered. 

The  second  decree  passed  by  the  town  council  two  months 
after  the  first  was  an  extension  of  the  other  on  more  radical  lines, 
doubtless  due  to  the  active  influence  of  Zwilling  and  Carlstadt. 
It  provided  that  to  the  common  fund  should  be  applied  the 
income  from  the  property  of  the  twenty-one  resident  brother- 
hoods, and  especially  from  endowed  masses,  now  regarded  as  an 
abomination.  The  expenses  of  the  common  treasury  were  also 


greatly  enlarged ;  orphans  were  to  be  cared  for,  students  at  the 
schools  and  university  to  be  helped,  poor  girls  to  be  supplied 
with  dowries,  and  workmen  loaned  capital  at  four  per  cent. 
The  laws  against  begging  were  reenacted  with  additional  penal- 
ties. A  police  charged  with  the  surveillance  of  morals  and  espe- 
cially with  the  suppression  of  houses  of  ill  fame  was  instituted. 
Finally,  a  new  form  of  divine  service  was  introduced,  by  which 
all  pictures  and  superfluous  altars  were  to  be  torn  down,  com- 
munion was  to  be  administered  in  both  kinds,  and  the  govern- 
ment bound  itself  to  see  that  ministers  preached  only  the  pure 
gospel.  All  the  provisions  of  this  comprehensive  decree,  except 
the  last  on  public  worship,  were  suggested  by  Luther. 

These  reforms,  for  the  most  part  salutary,  were  accompanied 
by  others,  which,  even  when  unobjectionable  in  themselves, 
were  carried  through  with  mob  violence.  The  riots  began 
about  the  first  of  October,  when  Gabriel  Zwilling,  an  Augus- 
tinian  monk,  began  to  preach  against  the  mass  and  the  canon- 
ical hours.  At  his  instance  these  services  were  stopped  by  the 
monks  on  October  6  or  7 ;  he  then  began  a  campaign  against 
the  monastic  life  itself,  not  only  leaving  it  free  to  his  brothers 
to  quit  the  cloister,  but  forcing  them  to  do  so  with  insults  and 

Carlstadt  now  began  to  attack  the  mass  and  with  such  suc- 
cess that  the  priests  celebrating  it  in  the  parish  church  on 
December  3  were  stoned,  and  the  day  following  an  altar  in 
the  Franciscan  convent  was  destroyed  by  the  students.  The 
arrest  of  the  offenders  was  the  occasion  of  a  worse  riot  on 
December  12,  when  the  mob  went  to  the  town  officers  and  de- 
manded their  release. 

The  agitation  spread.  The  monks  at  Erfurt  left  the  cloister 
tumultuously.  A  plan  was  hatched  to  stop  all  masses,  not  only 
at  Wittenberg,  but  throughout  the  surrounding  country,  on 
January  1,  1522.  At  Eilenberg  a  rectory  was  plundered. 
On  All  Saints'  Day  (November  1)  the  citizens  of  Wittenberg 
demonstrated  in  force  against  the  Elector's  relics  in  the  Castle 

Much  disturbed  by  the  progress  of  innovation,  Luther  made 
a  secret  visit  to  his  city  early  in  December,  lodging  with  Me- 


lanchthon  and  privately  interviewing  other  friends,  among  them 
Lucas  Cranach,  who  painted  his  picture.  He  was  rather  reas- 
sured than  otherwise  by  this  visit,  deciding  not  to  take  too 
tragically  a  disturbance  in  the  monastery  and  a  few  student 
riots.  He  accordingly  contented  himself  with  remaining  a  few 
days,  leaving  behind  him  a  Warning  to  all  Christians  to  keep 
from  Uproar  and  Sedition.  This  manuscript  he  also  sent  to 
Spalatin,  who,  however,  prudently  refused  to  have  it  printed 
until  three  months  later. 

In  this  year  [says  Luther]  by  God's  grace  the  holy  light  of  Christ- 
ian truth,  formerly  suppressed  by  the  Pope  and  his  followers,  has  been 
rekindled,  by  which  their  manifold  and  noxious  corruption  and  tyranny 
has  been  laid  bare  and  scotched.  So  that  it  looks  as  if  tumults  would 
arise,  and  parsons,  monks,  bishops,  and  the  whole  spiritual  estate 
hunted  out  and  smitten  unless  they  apply  themselves  earnestly  to  their 
improvement.  For  the  common  man,  agitated  and  disgusted  with  the 
harm  done  to  his  property,  body  and  soul,  means  to  do  something,  and 
vows  that  he  will  never  suffer  such  things  more,  and  has  reasons  at  his 
tongue's  end  and  threatens  to  smite  with  flail  and  cudgel. 

The  author  adds  that  though  the  intimidation  of  the  clergy 
is  a  good  thing,  nevertheless  tumult  is  the  work  of  the  devil, 
and  all  Christians  should  keep  aloof  from  it  and  labor  only  by 
word  of  mouth.  It  may  be  doubted  whether  this  pamphlet  was 
expressed  in  really  prudent  terms,  and  whether  it  would  not  be 
more  likely  to  excite  discontent  than  to  allay  it.  Nevertheless 
things  might  have  quieted  down  had  it  not  been  for  the  pow- 
erful reenforcement  received  by  the  party  of  revolution  on 
December  27  in  the  advent  of  the  Zwickau  prophets. 

Among  the  cloth  weavers  of  this  little  Saxon  town  Thomas 
Munzer,  a  fanatic,  had  formed  a  sect  animated  with  the  desire 
to  renovate  both  State  and  Church  by  the  readiest  and  roughest 
means.  When  the  civil  authorities,  fearing  the  openly  threat- 
ened revolt,  imprisoned  some  of  the  agitators,  Munzer  escaped 
to  Bohemia,  and  three  of  his  followers,  Nicholas  Storch,  Mark 
Thomas  Stiibner,  and  Thomae  Drechsel,  went  to  Wittenberg. 
They  proclaimed  themselves  prophets  who  talked  familiarly 
with  God  and  foresaw  the  future,  revelation  coming  to  them 
directly  from  the  Spirit.  Their  mystic  quietism  was  strangely 


mingled  with  an  anarchist  programme  for  overturning  the  civil 
government  and  extirpating  the  priests.  The  most  harmless  of 
the  dogmas  of  the  new  sect,  and  the  one  from  which  they  were 
to  derive  the  name  of  Anabaptists,  was  opposition  to  infant 
baptism  and  insistence  on  rebaptizing  their  proselytes. 

At  Wittenberg  the  prophets,  or  "  ranters,"  as  they  were  also 
called,  found  a  soil  prepared  for  the  seed  of  their  doctrine.  Ac- 
cording to  their  suggestions  learning  was  discouraged,  dreams 
were  cultivated,  and  a  systematic  propaganda  of  anarchy  organ- 

The  Wittenberg  leaders  either  succumbed  to  the  ascendancy 
of  the  prophets  or  actively  joined  them.  Carlstadt  met  them 
more  than  halfway :  he  married,  retired  to  a  farm,  affected  to 
dress  like  a  laborer,  and  courted  popularity  by  extolling  the 
revelation  vouchsafed  to  babes  and  sucklings  while  disparaging 
the  wisdom  of  the  wise.  Other  Lutherans,  like  Amsdorf,  though 
they  heartily  disapproved  of  the  course  things  were  taking, 
were  powerless  to  stem  the  tide. 

The  most  responsible  and  gifted  of  all  the  professors  left  at 
Wittenberg  was  Philip  Melanchthon.  Luther's  admiration  for 
this  pious  and  precociously  learned  young  man  was  so  great 
that  he  felt  perfectly  safe  in  leaving  the  guidance  of  the  new 
cause  in  the  latter's  hands.  "  They  will  not  need  me,  dear  bro- 
ther," he  said  on  departing  for  Worms,  "  while  you  still  Jive." 
When  he  first  heard  of  the  new  prophets  he  modestly  opined  that 
Melanchthon  would  be  better  able  to  deal  with  them  than  he 
would  be.  In  this  he  was  destined  to  disappointment.  With 
much  delicacy  and  refinement,  Melanchthon  possessed  the  de- 
fects of  his  qualities  in  a  certain  want  of  robustness.  Both  now, 
and  still  more  later,  at  the  crises  when  he  was  deprived  of  the 
other's  strong  influence,  his  life  was  made  miserable  and  his 
fame  tarnished  by  the  exigencies  of  a  situation  too  large  for 
his  powers.  In  the  present  instance  he  wavered,  was  inclined  to 
believe  the  arguments  against  infant  baptism,  was  impressed  by 
the  pretensions  of  the  prophets,  and  hoped  his  friend  S torch 
might  meet  his  friend  Luther.  The  latter's  directions  to  him 
how  to  act,  are  interesting  not  only  for  their  connection  with  the 
prophets,  but  also  as  a  revelation  of  the  writer's  inner  life : — 



(Wartbubg,)  January  13,  1522. 

Greeting.  Had  the  letter  of  the  Archbishop  of  Mayence  come  alone 
it  would  have  satisfied  me,  but  now  that  Capito's  letter  is  added  it  is 
evident  that  there  is  some  plot.  I  am  greatly  disappointed  in  Capito.  I 
wished  to  put  a  stop  to  that  impious  trade,  but  he  pleads  for  it  like  an 
attorney,  and  by  teaching  the  archbishop  to  confess  his  private  sins 
thinks  to  impose  on  Luther  beautifully.  I  shall  restrain  myself  and  not 
treat  the  man  as  he  deserves,  yet  I  shall  show  him  that  I  am  alive. 

Coming  now  to  the  "  prophets  "  let  me  first  say  that  I  do  not  ap- 
prove your  irresolution,  especially  as  you  are  more  richly  endowed 
with  the  spirit  and  with  learning  than  I  am.  In  the  first  place,  those 
who  bear  witness  of  themselves  are  not  to  be  believed,  but  spirits  must 
be  proved.  You  act  on  Gamaliel's  contrary  advice.  Hitherto  I  have 
heard  of  nothing  said  or  done  by  them  which  Satan  could  not  emulate. 
Do  you,  in  my  place,  search  out  whether  they  approve  their  calling. 
For  God  never  sent  any  one  who  was  not  either  called  by  men  or 
attested  by  miracles,  not  even  his  own  son.  .  .  .  Do  not  receive  them 
if  they  assert  that  they  come  by  mere  revelation.  .  .  . 

Pray  search  their  innermost  spirit  and  see  whether  they  have  ex- 
perienced those  spiritual  straightenings,  that  divine  birth,  death  and 
infernal  torture.  If  you  find  their  experiences  have  been  smooth,  bland, 
devout  (as  they  say)  and  ceremonious,  do  not  approve  them,  though 
they  claim  to  have  been  snatched  up  to  the  third  heaven.  .  .  .  Divine 
Majesty  does  not  speak  directly;  rather  no  man  shall  see  him  and  live. 
Nature  bears  no  small  stars  and  no  insignificant  words  of  God.  .  .  . 
Try  not  to  see  even  Jesus  in  glory  until  you  have  seen  him  crucified. 
(Here  follows  a  long  argument  in  favor  of  infant  baptism.) 

Keep  my  book  against  the  Archbishop  of  Mayence  to  come  out  and 
rebuke  others  when  they  go  mad.  Prepare  me  a  lodging  because  my 
translation  of  the  Bible  will  require  me  to  return  to  you,  and  pray  the 
Lord  that  I  may  do  so  in  accordance  with  his  will.  I  wish  to  keep  hid- 
den as  long  as  may  be ;  in  the  mean  time  I  shall  proceed  with  what  I 
have  begun.  Farewell. 


Martin  Luther. 

But  Melanchthon  was  not  the  man  to  cope  with  the  situation. 
Feeling  h^s  own  weakness  he  besought  the  Elector  to  allow  his 
friend  to  return  and  quiet  the  disturbances,  but  the  cautious 


prince,  fearing  openly  to  acknowledge  the  outlaw,  positively 
refused  to  do  so. 

The  tumults  continued.  On  January  11  the  Augustinians 
solemnly  burned  all  their  pictures.  On  January  24  Carlstadt 
forced  the  town  council  against  their  will  to  pass  the  ordinance 
above  mentioned.  They  disapproved  in  it  especially  of  two 
things :  first,  the  illegal  appropriation  of  the  endowments  of 
masses,  and  secondly,  the  abolition  of  all  images  in  the 
churches,  though  the  innovators  described  the  making  of  im- 
ages as  worse  than  theft,  murder,  and  adultery,  because  it  was 
forbidden  in  the  first  commandment,  while  the  other  sins  were 
relegated  to  the  following  ones. 

The  disorders  attracted  the  attention  of  neighboring  princes. 
Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony  made  representations  to  his 
cousin  and  also  laid  a  complaint  before  the  Imperial  Executive 
Council  (Reichsregiment)  at  Nuremberg,  on  January  20.  For  a 
moment  it  looked  as  if  not  only  sedition  but  civil  war  threatened 

On  February  1  there  was  another  riot.  The  government  at 
last  took  action.  Carlstadt  was  politely  requested  not  to  preach 
and  Z willing  judged  it  best  to  leave  town.  The  situation  was 
still  extremely  delicate,  however,  and,  fearing  another  outbreak, 
on  February  20  the  town  council,  without  consulting  the  Elector, 
sent  an  urgent  request  directly  to  Luther  imploring  him  to  re- 
turn to  his  place  at  Wittenberg. 

This  letter  was  probably  the  earliest  intimation  the  Reformer 
had  had  of  the  continuation  of  rioting.  His  first  idea  was  to  send 
another  warning  to  the  people,  but  the  more  he  thought  about 
it  the  more  certain  he  became  that  his  presence  was  necessary. 
He  intimated  his  intention  of  returning  in  a  letter  to  his 
sovereign,  ironically  referring  to  the  doings  at  Wittenberg  as 
a  cross  which  would  be  a  valuable  addition  to  Frederic's  famous 
collection  of  relics.  The  mild  and  pious  prince  answered  at  once 
in  a  letter  to  John  Oswald,  one  of  his  officers  at  Eisenach, 
bidding  him  have  a  personal  interview  with  the  Reformer  and 
communicate  the  contents  of  the  missive.  This  relates  the 
course  of  events  at  Wittenberg,  but  also  emphasizes  the  com- 
plaints already  made  against  them  by  Duke  George  and  the 



danger  of  a  new  process  against  Luther,  whom  he  advises  to  have 
patience  and  wait  at  least  until  after  the  next  diet,  to  be  called 
about  the  middle  of  Lent.  The  cross  Frederic  says  he  is  willing 
to  bear. 

This  letter  arrived  on  February  28  and  its  contents  were 
communicated  to  the  refugee  just  as  he  had  made  all  preparations 
to  depart.  Unhindered  by  it,  he  did  so  the  next  day,  making 
the  dangerous  journey  alone  on  horseback.  Reaching  Jena  on 
March  3,  he  chanced  to  meet  two  Swiss  students,  John  Kessler 
and  Spengler,  on  their  way  to  Wittenberg  to  study.  One  of 
them  has  left  us,  in  an  account  of  the  evening  at  the  Great  Bear 
inn,  a  vivid  picture  of  the  Reformer  and  a  little  drama  as  well. 
The  scene  is  the  public  room  of  the  hostel,  heated  with  the 
large  German  tile  stove  and  lighted  by  candles.  At  a  table  sits 
a  stalwart  man,  no  longer  thin  and  not  yet  stout ;  his  beard,  red 
cap,  jerkin  and  hose,  and  a  long  sword,  proclaim  him  a  knight. 
Before  him  is  a  glass  of  beer ;  one  hand  rests  on  the  hilt  of  his 
weapon,  in  the  other  he  holds  an  open  book.  Enter  two  youths, 
who  on  account  of  their  muddy  boots  sit  down  near  the  door. 

Luther — Good  evening,  friends.  Draw  nearer  and  have  a  drink  to 
warm  you  up.  I  see  you  are  Swiss ;  from  what  part  do  you  come  and 
whither  are  you  going  ? 

Kessler  —  We  come  from  St.  Gall,  sir,  and  we  are  going  to  Witten- 

Luther  —  To  Wittenberg  ?  Well,  you  will  find  good  compatriots  of 
yours  there,  the  brothers  Jerome  and  Augustine  Schurf. 

Kessler — We  have  letters  to  them.  Can  you  tell  us,  sir,  whether 
Luther  is  now  at  Wittenberg,  or  where  he  may  be  ? 

Luther  —  I  have  authentic  information  that  he  is  not  at  Witten- 
berg, but  that  he  will  soon  return.  But  Philip  Melanchthon  is  there  to 
teach  Greek,  and  Aurogallus  to  teach  you  Hebrew,  both  of  which 
languages  you  should  study  if  you  wish  to  understand  the  Bible. 

Kessler  —  Thank  God  that  Luther  will  soon  be  back  ;  if  God 
grant  us  life  we  will  not  rest  until  we  see  and  hear  that  man.  For  it 
is  on  account  of  him  that  we  are  going  there.  We  have  heard  that  he 
wishes  to  overturn  the  priesthood  and  the  mass,  and  as  our  parents 
have  brought  us  up  to  be  priests,  we  want  to  hear  what  he  can  tell 
us  and  on  what  authority  he  acts. 

Luther  —  Where  have  you  studied  formerly  ? 


Kessler  —  At  Basel. 

Luther  —  How  goes  it  at  Basel  ?  Is  Erasmus  there  and  what  is  he 
Joing  ? 

Kessler  —  Erasmus  is  there,  sir,  but  what  he  does  no  man  knows, 
tor  he  keeps  it  a  secret.  (Aside  to  his  companion  as  Luther  takes  a 
drink)  I  never  knew  a  knight  before  who  used  so  much  Latin,  nor  one 
who  understood  Greek  and  Hebrew  as  this  one  seems  to. 

Luther  —  Friends,  what  do  they  think  of  Luther  in  Switzerland  ? 

Kessler  —  There  are  various  opinions  there,  sir,  as  everywhere. 
Some  cannot  extol  him  enough,  and  thank  God  for  having  revealed 
truth  and  discovered  error  by  him ;  others,  especially  the  clergy,  con- 
demn him  as  an  intolerable  heretic. 

Luther  —  One  might  expect  as  much  from  the  preachers. 

Spengler  —  (Raising  book  which  he  sees  is  a  Hebrew  Psalter)  I 
would  give  a  finger  to  understand  this  tongue. 

Luther  —  You  must  work  hard  to  learn  it.  I  also  am  learning  it, 
and  practise  some  every  day. 

(It  is  getting  dark.  Host  bustles  up,  lights  more  candles,  stops  before 

Host  —  I  overheard  you,  gentlemen,  talking  of  Luther.  Pity  you  were 
not  all  here  two  days  ago ;  he  was  here  then  at  this  table,  sitting  right 
there  (points). 

Spengler  —  If  this  cursed  weather  had  not  hindered  us  we  should 
have  been  here  then  and  should  have  seen  him.  Is  it  not  a  pity  ? 

Kessler  —  At  least  we  ought  to  be  thankful  that  we  are  in  the  same 
house  that  he  was  and  at  the  very  table  where  he  sat.  (Host  laughs, 
goes  toward  door ;  when  out  of  sight  of  Luther  turns  and  beckons 
Kessler,  who  rises  anxiously  thinking  that  he  has  done  something  amiss 
and  goes  to  host.) 

Host  (aside  to  Kessler)  —  Now  that  I  see  that  you  really  want 
to  hear  and  see  Luther,  I  may  tell  you  that  the  man  at  your  table 
is  he. 

Kessler  —  You're  just  gulling  me  because  you  think  I  want  to  see 

Host  —  No,  it  is  positively  he,  but  don't  let  on  that  you  know  him. 
(Kessler  returns  to  table,  where  Luther  has  begun  to  read  again.) 

Kessler  (whispering  to  his  companion)  —  The  host  tells  me  this  man 
is  Luther. 

Spengler  —  What  on  earth  ?  Perhaps  he  said  "  Hutten  "  ;  the  two 
names  sound  alike,  and  he  certainly  looks  more  like  a  knight  than  a 


(Enter  two  merchants,  who  take  off  their  cloaks.  One  of  them  lays 
a  book  on  the  table.) 

Luther  —  May  I  ask,  friend,  what  you  are  reading  ? 

Merchant  —  Doctor  Luther's  sermons,  just  out ;  have  you  not  seen 

Luther  —  I  shall  soon,  at  any  rate. 

Host  —  Sit  down,  gentlemen,  sit  down ;  it  is  supper-time  now. 

Luther  —  Come  here,  gentlemen  ;  I  will  stand  treat.  (The  merchants 
sit  down  and  supper  is  served.)  These  are  bad  times,  gentlemen.  I 
heard  only  recently  of  the  princes  and  lords  assembling  at  Nuremberg 
to  settle  the  religious  question  and  remedy  the  grievances  of  the 
German  nation.  What  do  they  do  ?  Nothing  but  waste  their  time  in 
tournaments  and  all  kinds  of  wicked  diversions.  They  ought  to  pray 
earnestly  to  God.  Fine  princes  they  are  !  Let  us  hope  that  our  children 
and  posterity  will  be  less  poisoned  by  papal  errors  and  more  given  to 
the  truth  than  their  parents,  in  whom  error  is  so  firmly  implanted  that 
it  is  hard  to  root  out. 

First  Merchant  —  I  am  a  plain,  blunt  man,  look  you,  who  understand 
little  of  this  business,  but  I  say  to  myself,  as  far  as  I  can  see,  Luther 
must  be  either  an  angel  from  heaven  or  a  devil  from  hell.  I  would  give 
ten  gulden  to  have  the  chance  to  confess  to  him ;  I  believe  he  could 
give  me  good  counsel  for  my  conscience.  (The  merchants  get  up  and 
go  out  to  feed  their  horses.) 

Host  (to  students)  —  You  owe  me  nothing ;  Luther  has  paid  it  all. 

Kessler  —  Thank  you,  sir,  shall  I  say  Hutten  ? 

Luther  —  No,  I  am  not  he;  (to  host)  I  am  made  a  noble  to-night, 
for  these  Switzers  take  me  for  Ulrich  von  Hutten. 

Host  —  You  are  not  Hutten,  but  Martin  Luther. 

Luther  (laughing)  —  They  think  I  am  Hutten ;  you  that  I  am 
Luther;  soon  I'll  be  Prester  John.  (Raising  his  glass)  Friends,  I  drink 
your  health  (putting  down  his  glass),  but  wait  a  moment;  host,  bring 
us  a  measure  of  wine ;  the  beer  is  not  so  good  for  me,  as  I  am  more 
accustomed  to  wine.  (They  drink.) 

Luther  (rising  to  say  good-night  and  offering  them  his  hand)  — 
When  you  get  to  Wittenberg,  remember  me  to  Jerome  Schurf. 

Kessler  —  Whom  shall  we  remember,  sir  ? 

Luther  —  Say  only  that  he  that  will  soon  come  sends  his  greetings. 

The  next  morning  Luther  departed  early.  At  Borna,  where 
he  arrived  on  March  5,  he  wrote  his  sovereign  to  apologize  for 


his  reference  to  the  latter's  hobby  of  relic-collecting,  and  to 
point  out  why  he  must  go  to  Wittenberg  even  if  Frederic  could 
no  longer  protect  him  there :  — 


Borna,  March  5,  1522. 

Favor  and  peace  from  God  our  Father  and  from  the  Lord  Jesus 
Christ,  and  my  humble  service. 

Most  serene,  highborn  Prince,  most  gracious  Lord !  Your  Grace's 
kind  letter  reached  me  Friday  evening  as  I  was  about  to  depart  the 
next  day.  I  need  not  say  that  I  know  your  Grace  meant  the  best 
for  me,  for  I  am  certain  of  it  as  far  as  a  man  can  be  of  anything. 
Indeed  my  conviction  of  it  is  almost  superhuman,  but  that  makes  no 

I  take  the  liberty  of  supposing  from  your  Grace's  tone  that  my  let- 
ter hurt  you  a  little,  but  your  Grace  is  wise  enough  to  understand  how 
I  write.  I  have  confidence  that  your  Grace  knows  my  heart  better  than 
to  suppose  I  would  insult  your  Grace's  famous  wisdom  by  unseemly 
words.  I  assure  you  with  all  my  heart  that  I  have  always  had  a  per- 
fect and  unaffected  love  for  your  Grace  above  all  other  princes  and 
rulers.  What  I  wrote  was  from  anxiety  to  reassure  your  Grace,  not 
for  my  own  sake  (of  that  I  had  no  thought),  but  for  the  sake  of  the 
untoward  movement  at  Wittenberg  carried  on  by  our  friends  to  the 
detriment  of  the  Evangelic  cause.  I  feared  that  your  Grace  would 
suffer  great  inconvenience  from  it.  The  calamity  also  bore  hard  on 
me,  so  that,  had  I  not  been  certain  we  had  the  pure  gospel,  I  should 
have  despaired.  To  my  sorrow  the  movement  has  made  a  mockery  of 
all  the  good  that  has  been  done  and  has  brought  it  to  naught.  I  would 
willingly  buy  the  good  cause  with  my  life  could  I  do  so.  Things  are 
now  done  for  which  we  can  answer  neither  to  God  nor  to  man.  They 
hang  around  my  neck  and  offend  the  gospel  and  sadden  my  heart. 
My  letter,  most  gracious  Lord,  was  for  those  men,  and  not  for  my- 
self, that  your  Grace  might  see  the  devil  in  the  drama  now  enacting 
at  Wittenberg.  Although  the  admonition  was  unnecessary  to  your 
Grace,  yet  it  was  needful  for  me  to  write.  As  for  myself,  most  gra- 
cious Lord,  I  answer  thus :  Your  Grace  knows  (or,  if  you  do  not,  I 
now  inform  you  of  the  fact)  that  I  have  received  my  gospel  not  from 
men  but  from  Heaven  only,  by  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ,  so  that  I 
might  well  be  able  to  boast  and  call  myself  a  minister  and  evangel- 
ist, as  I  shall   do  in   future.   I  offered  to  be  tried  and  judged,  not 


because  I  had  doubts  myself,  but  to  convince  others  and  from  sheer 
humility.  But  now  I  see  that  my  too  great  humility  abases  the  gospel, 
and  that  if  I  yield  a  span  the  devil  will  take  all.  So  I  am  consci- 
entiously compelled  to  resist.  I  have  obeyed  your  Grace  this  year  [by 
staying  at  Wartburg]  to  please  you.  The  devil  knows  I  did  not  hide 
from  cowardice,  for  he  saw  my  heart  when  I  entered  Worms.  Had 
I  then  believed  that  there  were  as  many  devils  as  tiles  on  the  roof,  I 
would  have  leaped  into  their  midst  with  joy.  Now  Duke  George  is  still 
far  from  being  the  equal  of  one  devil.  Since  the  Father  of  infinite 
mercy  has  by  the  gospel  made  us  happy  lords  of  all  devils  and  of 
death,  and  has  given  us  rich  confidence  to  call  him  dearest  Father, 
your  Grace  can  see  for  yourself  that  it  would  be  a  deep  insult  to  such 
a  Father  not  to  trust  him,  and  that  we  are  lords  even  of  Duke  George's 
wrath.  I  am  fully  persuaded  that  had  I  been  called  to  Leipsic  instead 
of  Wittenberg,  I  should  have  gone  there,  even  if  (your  Grace  will  ex- 
cuse my  foolish  words)  it  had  rained  Duke  Georges  nine  days  and 
every  duke  nine  times  as  furious  as  this  one.  He  esteems  my  Lord 
Christ  a  man  of  straw,  but  my  Lord  and  I  can  suffer  that  for  a  while. 
I  will  not  conceal  from  your  Grace  that  I  have  more  than  once  wept 
and  prayed  for  Duke  George  that  God  might  enlighten  him.  I  will 
pray  and  weep  once  more  and  then  cease  for  ever.  Will  your  Grace 
please  pray,  and  have  prayers  said  by  others,  that  we  may  turn  from  him 
the  judgment  that  (God  knows)  is  always  in  wait  for  him.  I  could  slay 
him  with  a  single  word. 

I  have  written  this  to  your  Grace  to  inform  you  that  I  am  going  to 
Wittenberg  under  a  far  higher  protection  than  that  of  the  Elector.  I 
do  not  intend  to  ask  your  Grace's  protection.  Indeed  I  think  I  shall 
protect  you  rather  than  you  me.  If  I  thought  your  Grace  could  and 
would  defend  me  by  force,  I  would  not  come.  The  sword  ought  not 
and  cannot  decide  a  matter  of  this  kind.  God  alone  must  rule  it  with- 
out human  care  and  cooperation.  He  who  believes  the  most  can  protect 
the  most,  and  as  I  see  your  Grace  is  yet  weak  in  faith,  I  can  by  no 
means  regard  you  as  the  man  to  protect  and  save  me. 

As  your  Grace  desires  to  know  what  to  do  in  this  matter,  and  thinks 
you  have  done  too  little,  I  humbly  answer  that  you  have  done  too 
much  and  should  do  nothing.  God  will  not  and  cannot  suffer  your 
interference  nor  mine.  He  wishes  it  left  to  himself ;  I  say  no  more, 
your  Grace  can  decide.  If  your  Grace  believes,  you  will  be  safe  and 
have  peace  ;  if  you  do  not  believe,  /  do,  and  must  leave  your  Grace's 
unbelief  to  its  own  torturing  anxiety  such  as  all  unbelievers  have  to 
suffer.  As  I  do  not  follow  your  advice  and  remain  hidden,  your  Grace 


is  excused  before  God  if  I  am  captured  or  put  to  death.  Before  men 
your  Grace  should  act  as  a  prince  of  the  Empire  and  be  obedient  to 
your  sovereign,  and  let  his  Imperial  Majesty  rule  in  your  cities  over 
both  life  and  property,  as  is  his  right  by  the  Imperial  Constitution, 
and  you  should  not  offer  any  resistance  in  case  he  captures  and  puts 
me  to  death.  No  one  should  oppose  authority  save  he  who  ordained  it, 
otherwise  it  is  rebellion  and  displeasing  to  God.  But  I  hope  they  will 
have  the  good  sense  to  recognize  your  Grace's  lofty  position  and  so  not 
become  my  executioners  themselves.  If  your  Grace  leaves  them  an 
open  door  and  free  passes,  when  they  come  you  will  have  done  enough 
for  obedience.  They  can  ask  nothing  more  of  your  Grace  than  to  in- 
quire if  Luther  be  with  you,  which  will  not  put  your  Grace  in  peril 
or  trouble.  Christ  has  not  taught  me  to  be  a  Christian  to  injure  others. 
If  they  are  so  unreasonable  as  to  ask  your  Grace  to  lay  hands  upon  me, 
I  shall  then  tell  your  Grace  what  to  do,  always  keeping  your  Grace 
safe  from  injury  and  peril  in  body,  soul,  or  estate,  as  far  as  in  me  is  — 
your  Grace  may  then  act  as  I  advise  or  not  as  you  please.  .  ,  . 
Your  Grace's  humble  subject, 

Martin  Luther. 

Frederic  answered  this  letter  on  March  7  with  one  to  the 
Wittenberg  jurist  Schurf,  bidding  him  request  Luther  to  draw 
up  a  statement  that  he  had  only  returned  to  quiet  the  tumults. 
The  Reformer  did  as  requested  on  March  9 ;  the  Elector  was 
not  quite  satisfied  and  a  new  memorial  was  accordingly  drawn 
up  by  Luther  on  March  12,  which  the  Prince  might  submit  to 
the  Diet  soon  to  assemble  at  Nuremberg.  The  reasons  here 
given,  and  above  all  the  immediate  subsidence  of  tumult,  com- 
pletely satisfied  that  august  body  and  prevented  any  measures 
being  taken  against  the  banned  heretic  or  his  protector. 



Every  revolution  has  its  extremists  against  whose  unwise 
fanaticism  the  true  reformer  has  to  guard  as  carefully  as  he 
resists  the  abuses  of  hopeless  reactionaries.  Some  revolutions 
fall  under  the  sway  of  the  radical  party  —  Jacobins  and  Com- 
munists—  and  thus  plunge  into  excesses  which  every  true  friend 
of  progress  must  regret.  The  Eef ormation  was  no  exception  to 
the  general  rule  ;  it  had  its  extreme  left,  —  Anabaptists  and 
ranters  as  they  were  then  called,  —  and  had  it  not  been  for  the 
master  brain  in  control,  any  one  of  several  revolutionary  parties 
claiming  alliance  with  the  Reformation  might  have  obtained  the 
ascendancy  and  swept  it  along  to  the  ruin  which  overtook  each 
in  turn.  Luther's  insight,  courage,  and  genius  shone  brighter  in 
steering  his  ship  clear  of  these  rocks  and  shoals  than  they  had 
when  he  first  cut  the  ropes  and  set  sail. 

His  task  now  was  to  restore  order  at  Wittenberg.  Arriv- 
ing late  on  the  afternoon  of  Thursday,  March  6,  he  spent 
two  days  looking  about  and  getting  his  bearings.  The  im- 
pression he  made  is  faithfully  recorded  in  a  contemporary 
letter  from  Albert  Burer  to  Beatus  Rhenanus,  Wittenberg, 
March  29 :  — 

Martin  Luther  returned  to  restore  order  clad  as  a  knight  and  in 
the  company  of  knights.  .  .  .  He  is  a  man  in  whose  face  one  may 
read  benevolence,  charity,  and  cheerfulness  ;  his  voice  is  mild  and  mel- 
low ;  his  delivery  very  graceful.  Whoever  has  heard  him  once  will 
desire  to  hear  him  again. 

Luther  lost  no  time  in  starting  a  vigorous  campaign  against 
the  agitation.  In  eight  sermons,  on  eight  successive  days,  from 
March  9  to  16,  risking  his  popularity  as  freely  as  he  had  his 
life,  he  exhorted  the  people  to  good  sense,  moderation,  and 
above  all  to  charity.  In  the  first  address,  on  the  text,  "  All 


things  are  lawful  unto  me  but  all  things  are  not  expedient,"  he 
shows  how  much  better  it  is  to  tolerate  some  usages  which  we 
regard  as  superfluous  and  unnecessary,  for  the  sake  of  our 
brothers  who  are  not  so  far  advanced.  Eeform  must  begin  with 
milk  for  babes,  the  pure  doctrine  of  charity  and  faith,  after 
which  may  come  the  strong  meat  of  drastic  law.  True  Christ- 
ian liberty  is  not  evinced  by  boasting  how  free  we  are  from  all 
law,  but  by  showing  how  ready  we  are  to  serve  our  neighbors 
in  love.  On  the  second  day  he  enunciated  one  of  his  fundamental 
principles  with  distinctness :  — 

Compel  or  force  any  one  with  power  I  will  not,  for  faith  must  be 
gentle  and  unforced.  Take  an  example  by  me.  I  opposed  indulgences 
and  all  the  papists,  but  not  with  force ;  I  only  wrote,  preached,  and 
used  God's  Word,  and  nothing  else.  That  Word,  while  I  slept  and 
drank  beer  with  Melanchthon  and  Amsdorf,  has  broken  the  papacy 
more  than  any  king  or  emperor  ever  broke  it.  Had  I  wished  it,  I 
might  have  brought  Germany  to  civil  war.  Yes,  at  Worms  I  might 
have  started  a  game  which  would  not  have  been  safe  for  the  Emperor, 
but  it  would  have  been  a  fool's  game.  So  I  did  nothing,  but  Only  let 
the  Word  act. 

Having  laid  down  his  general  principles,  that  mob  violence 
is  not  the  way  to  reform  the  Church,  that  sedition,  even  when 
provoked,  is  always  wrong,  and  that  the  people  in  presuming 
to  regulate  spiritual  matters  usurp  an  office  which  does  not  be- 
long to  them,  the  preacher  goes  on  in  the  following  sermons  to 
take  up  one  by  one  the  matters  which  have  so  much  exercised 
the  community  —  images,  the  monastic  life,  taking  the  sacra- 
ment in  both  kinds  —  and  applies  these  principles  to  them. 
The  eight  sermons  must  be  given  a  high  place  in  the  oratory 
not  only  of  the  pulpit  but  of  the  forum.  They  are  filled  with 
the  spirit  of  the  statesman  as  well  as  of  the  priest.  They  were 
completely  successful.  The  lowering  clouds  before  which  his 
colleagues  had  stood  gaping  or  which  they  had  helped  to  raise 
vanished  almost  in  a  moment.  Luther  mentioned  no  names,  but 
the  leaders  of  the  opposition  were  thoroughly  discredited  and 
left  without  a  follower.  Carlstadt  sulked  at  home ;  the  prophets 
beat  a  hasty  retreat. 

On  the  day  after  his  last  sermon  the  Keformer  wrote  a  letter 


to  the  parish  priest  at  Zwickau,  one  of  his  most  devoted  fol- 
lowers, expounding  his  method  of  action  clearly  and  concisely. 
The  epistle  is  conceived  in  the  spirit  of  Paul's  advice  to  the 
Corinthians  (1  Corinthians,  viii)  : 


Wittenberg,  March  17, 1522. 

Greeting.  Dear  Nicholas,  although  I  am  variously  occupied  by  our 
great  disturbances,  I  cannot  omit  writing  to  you.  Your  Zwickau 
prophets  were  about  to  bring  forth  monsters,  which  if  born  would  have 
done  no  little  damage.  Their  spirit  is  fair-seeming  and  very  wily,  but 
the  Lord  be  with  you.  Amen. 

Satan  has  attempted  much  evil  here  in  my  fold,  and  in  such  a  man- 
ner that  it  is  hard  to  oppose  him  without  scandal.  Be  on  your  guard 
against  all  innovations  made  by  public  decree  or  popular  agitation. 
What  our  friends  attempt  by  force  and  violence  must  be  resisted  by 
word  only,  overcome  by  word  and  destroyed  by  word.  It  is  Satan 
who  urges  us  to  extreme  measures. 

I  condemn  masses  held  as  sacrifices  and  good  works,  but  I  would  not 
lay  hands  on  those  who  are  unwilling  to  give  them  up  or  on  those  who 
are  doubtful  about  them,  nor  would  I  prevent  them  by  force.  I  con- 
demn by  word  only  ;  whoso  believes,  let  him  believe  and  follow,  whoso 
does  not  believe,  let  him  not  believe  and  depart.  No  one  is  to  be  com- 
pelled to  the  faith  or  to  the  things  that  are  of  faith,  but  to  be  drawn  by 
word  that  he  may  believe  and  come  of  his  own  accord.  I  condemn 
images,  but  only  by  word,  saying  not  that  they  should  be  burned,  but 
that  faith  should  not  be  placed  in  them,  as  hitherto  has  been  done  and 
is  yet  done.  They  will  fall  of  themselves  when  the  instructed  people 
learn  that  they  are  nothing  before  God.  In  like  manner  I  condemn 
the  Pope's  laws  about  confession,  communion,  prayer  and  fasting,  but 
by  word,  that  I  may  free  consciences  from  them.  While  their  con- 
sciences are  freed,  they  may  use  such  things  for  the  sake  of  the  weaker 
brethren  who  are  entangled  in  them,  and  then  may  cease  to  use  them 
as  they  wax  strong,  so  that  charity  may  be  the  rule  in  external  usages 
and  laws. 

Nothing  vexes  me  more  than  this  multitude,  which  abandons  Scrip- 
ture, faith,  and  charity,  and  boasts  that  it  is  Christian  only  because  in 
the  presence  of  weaker  brethren  it  is  able  to  eat  flesh  on  Fridays, 
commune  in  both  kinds,  and  stop  fasting  and  prayer.  .  .  .  But  all 
things  are  to  be  proved  by  Scripture  and  hearts  are  to  be  helped  little 


by  little  like  Jacob's  sheep,  that  they  may  first  receive  the  word  of 
their  own  accord  and  afterwards  grow  stronger.  .  .  . 


Martin  Luther. 

Early  in  April  Luther  consented  to  hear  the  prophets  in  their 
own  defence,  of  which  he  later  gave  the  following  report :  — 

In  1522 *  Mark  Storch  2  came  to  me  with  sweet,  seductive  words  to 
lay  his  doctrine  before  me.  As  he  presumed  to  teach  things  not  in 
Scripture  I  said  to  him  :  "  I  will  not  agree  with  that  part  of  your  doc- 
trine unsupported  by  Scripture  unless  you  work  miracles  to  prove  it." 
.  .  .  He  said  :  "  You  shall  see  miracles  in  seven  years."  (These  words 
were  from  Satan  who  soon  after  instigated  the  Peasants'  Revolt.)  He 
presumptuously  continued :  "  God  will  not  take  away  my  power.  I  can 
tell  whether  a  man  will  be  saved  or  not."  —  But  Satan  cannot  remain 
hidden:  his  speech  bewrayeth  him.  Storch  had  wonderful  phrases, "  illu- 
mination, quietism,"  and  the  like.8  I  asked  him  what  he  meant  by 
these  words,  but  he  said  he  would  not  preach  to  inept  disciples.  I  asked 
him  how  he  knew  the  inept  from  the  apt.  He  replied :  "  I  can  tell  what 
sort  of  a  talent  a  man  has."  I  asked  :  "  My  dear  Mark,  what  sort  of  a 
talent  have  I  ?  "  He  answered :  "  You  are  in  the  first  degree  of  mobil- 
ity, but  you  will  soon  be  in  the  first  degree  of  immobility,"  —  in  which 
I  am. 

After  pacifying  Wittenberg,  Luther  visited  Weimar,  Erfurt, 
and  other  neighboring  places,  preaching  with  great  success 
against  fanaticism  and  sedition. 

But  the  battle  was  not  to  be  so  easily  won.  The  ranters, 
driven  from  the  neighborhood  of  Wittenberg,  fled  to  other 
places,  where  they  propagated  the  same  doctrines.  Thomas 
Miinzer,  the  great  original  agitator,  after  his  expulsion  from 

1  Text  1521  (Bindseil,  ii,  21).  This  is  a  mistake.  The  prophets  did  not  arrive 
in  Wittenberg:  until  December  27,  1521.   Cf.  Enders,  iii,  331. 

2  The  names  of  the  prophets  are  confused :  Nicholas  Storch  and  Mark  Thomae 

8  Langweiligkeit,  translated  quietism,  refers  to  the  doctrine  of  the  mystics  that 
the  way  to  know  God  was  to  wait  for  him  in  absolute  vacancy  of  thought.  These 
phrases  of  the  mystics  recall  Sir  Thomas  Browne's  description  of  the  mystic 
doctrine  in  Urn-Burial :  "  Christian  annihilation,  extasis,  exolution,  liquefaction, 
transformation,  the  kisse  of  the  Spouse,  gustation  of  God,  and  ingression  into  the 
divine  shadow." 


Zwickau  and  visit  to  Bohemia,  settled  in  the  little  Saxon  town 
of  Allstedt,  where  he  soon  won  followers.  Images  were  broken 
down,  infant  baptism  abolished,  dreams  systematically  culti- 
vated as  a  means  of  communication  with  God,  laws  reducing 
the  interest  and  providing  for  the  periodical  repudiation  of  the 
principal  of  debt  were  passed  and  the  right  to  hold  private  pro- 
perty was  questioned.  Worse  yet,  a  campaign  of  fire  and  sword 
against  the  "  godless,"  including  papists  and  Lutherans  alike, 
was  preached  with  all  the  violence  of  fanaticism.  The  peasants 
streamed  in  from  the  surrounding  country,  armed  and  on  the 
verge  of  rebellion.  Seeing  that  an  appeal  to  reason  could  no 
longer  be  made,  Luther  wrote  the  following  letter  to  the  Elector 
and  his  brother,  who  were  hesitating  whether  to  attack  the  wolf 
of  rebellion  masquerading  under  the  sheeps'  clothing  of  relig- 
ious reform :  — 


(Wittenberg,  July,)  1524. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ  Jesus  our  Saviour.  God's  holy  Word, 
when  it  arises,  always  has  the  good  fortune  to  excite  Satan  with  all 
his  might  against  itself.  At  first  the  devil  rages  with  his  fist  and  wicked 
power,  then,  if  that  does  no  good,  he  attacks  with  false  tongues  and  ex- 
travagant spirits  and  doctrines,  so  that  what  he  could  not  crush  with 
power  he  may  suffocate  with  venomous  lies.  .  .  .  Now  Satan  knows 
that  the  rage  of  Pope  and  Emperor  will  accomplish  nothing  against 
us ;  yea,  he  feels  that,  as  is  the  way  with  God's  Word,  the  more 
it  is  pressed  down  the  more  it  spreads  and  grows,  and  therefore  he 
now  attacks  it  with  false  spirits  and  sects.  We  must  therefore  con- 
sider and  not  err,  for  it  must  be  so,  as  Paul  says  to  the  Corinthians : 
"There  must  also  be  heresies  among  you  that  they  which  are  ap- 
proved may  be  made  manifest."  And  so,  as  Satan  driven  out  has  now 
wandered  two  or  three  years  through  dry  places,  seeking  rest  and  find- 
ing none,  he  has  at  last  settled  in  your  Graces'  electorate,  and  made 
himself  a  nest  at  Allstedt,  and  thinks  under  our  peace,  protection, 
and  guardianship  to  fight  against  us.  For  Duke  George's  principal- 
ity, although  it  is  our  next  neighbor,  is,  as  they  themselves  boast,  too 
favorable  and  gentle  for  such  a  bold  and  dauntless  spirit,  so  that 
the  sectaries  cannot  there  show  their  courage  and  confidence,  where- 
fore the  bad  spirit  cries  out  and  complains  terribly  that  he  must  suffer 


much,  although  no  one  has  yet  attacked  him  with  sword  or  tongue 
or  pen,  and  they  only  dream  that  they  are  bearing  a  cross.  So  frivol- 
ously and  causelessly  must  Satan  lie,  though  he  can  thereby  deceive 
no  one. 

Now  it  is  an  especial  joy  that  our  followers  did  not  begin  this 
heresy,  as  the  sectaries  themselves  boast  that  they  did  not  learn  it  from 
us,  but  directly  from  Heaven  and  that  they  hear  God  speak  to  them 
immediately  as  to  the  angels.  It  is  a  simple  fact  that  at  Wittenberg 
only  faith,  love,  and  the  cross  of  Christ  are  taught.  God's  voice,  they 
say,  you  must  hear  yourself,  and  suffer  and  feel  God's  work  in  you  to 
know  your  own  weight ;  aye,  they  make  nothing  of  the  Scripture,  which 
they  call  "  Bible-bubble-Babel."  To  judge  by  what  they  say  their  cross 
and  passion  is  greater  than  Christ's  and  more  to  be  prized.  .  .  . 

The  sole  reason  for  my  inditing  this  letter  to  your  Graces  is  that  I 
have  gathered  from  the  writings  of  these  people,  that  this  same  spirit 
will  not  be  satisfied  to  make  'converts  by  word  only,  but  intends  to  be- 
take himself  to  arms  and  set  himself  with  power  against  the  govern- 
ment, and  forthwith  raise  a  riot.  Here  Satan  lets  the  cat  out  of  the 
bag,  that  is,  makes  public  too  much.  What  will  this  spirit  do,  when  he 
has  won  the  support  of  the  mob  ?  Truly  here  at  Wittenberg  I  have 
heard  from  the  same  spirit  that  his  business  must  be  carried  through 
with  the  sword.  I  then  marked  that  their  plans  would  come  out, 
namely,  to  overturn  the  civil  government  and  themselves  become  lords 
of  the  world.  But  Christ  says  his  kingdom  is  not  of  this  world,  and 
teaches  the  apostles  not  to  be  as  the  rulers  of  the  earth.  So  although  I 
am  aware  that  your  Graces  will  understand  how  to  act  in  this  matter 
better  than  I  can  advise  you,  nevertheless  it  is  my  humble  duty  to  do 
my  part,  and  humbly  to  pray  and  warn  your  Graces  to  fulfil  your  duty 
as  civil  governors  by  preventing  mischief  and  by  forestalling  rebellion. 
Your  Graces  may  rest  assured  in  your  consciences  that  your  power 
and  rule  was  given  and  commended  to  you  by  God,  that  you  might 
preserve  the  peace  and  punish  those  who  break  it,  as  St.  Paul  teaches 
in  Romans.  Therefore  your  Graces  should  neither  sleep  nor  be  idle, 
for  God  will  demand  an  answer  and  reckoning  from  you  for  a  care- 
less or  spiritless  use  of  the  sword.  Moreover  your  Graces  could  not 
excuse  yourselves  before  the  people  and  the  world  if  you  allowed  re- 
bellion and  crimes  of  violence  to  make  headway. 

If  they  give  out,  as  they  are  wont  to  do  with  their  swelling  words, 
that  the  spirit  drives  them  on  to  attempt  force,  then  I  answer  thus : 
It  is  a  bad  spirit  which  shows  no  other  fruit  than  burning  churches, 
cloisters,  and  images,  for  the  worst  rascals  on  earth  can  do  as  much. 


• .  .  Secondly  .  .  .  that  it  is  a  bad  spirit  which  dares  not  give  an  an- 
swer. . . .  for  I,  poor,  miserable  man,  did  not  so  act  in  my  doctrine. 
...  I  went  to  Leipsic  to  debate  before  a  hostile  audience.  At  Augs- 
burg I  appeared  without  safe-conduct  before  my  worst  enemy.  I  went 
to  Worms  to  answer  to  the  Emperor  and  Diet,  although  I  well  knew 
that  they  had  broken  my  safe-conduct,  and  planned  all  manner  of 
evil  against  me.  .  .  . 

If  they  will  do  more  than  propagate  their  doctrines  by  word,  if  they 
attempt  force,  your  Graces  should  say :  We  gladly  allow  any  one  to 
teach  by  word,  that  the  right  doctrine  may  be  preserved ;  but  draw 
not  the  sword,  which  is  ours  ;  if  you  do,  you  must  leave  the  country.  .  .  . 

Now  I  will  close  for  this  time,  having  humbly  prayed  your  Graces 
to  act  vigorously  against  their  storming  and  ranting,  that  God's  king- 
dom may  be  advanced  by  word  only,  as  becomes  Christians,  and  that 
all  cause  of  sedition  be  taken  from  the  multitude  (Herr  Omnes)  which 
is  more  than  enough  inclined  to  it  already.  For  they  are  not  Christ- 
ians who  would  go  beyond  the  word  and  appeal  to  force,  even  if 
they  boast  that  they  are  full  of  holy  spirits.  God's  mercy  eternally 
strengthen  and  preserve  your  Graces.    Amen. 

Yours  Graces'  obedient, 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

This  letter  "  against  the  Satan  of  Allstedt,"  as  Luther  called 
him,  was  published,  and  Miinzer  summoned  by  the  Elector  to 
a  conference  with  its  author  at  Weimar.  The  fanatic  feared 
to  obey,  and  fled  to  the  city  of  Muhlhausen,  continuing,  always 
and  everywhere,  his  revolutionary  agitation,  and  breathing  out 
slaughter  and  reviling  against  "  that  archheathen,  archrascal, 
Wittenberg  pope,  snake,  and  basilisk." 

Carlstadt,  too,  continued  his  iconoclastic  career.  Unable  to 
bear  the  peaceful  atmosphere  of  Wittenberg,  he  had  himself 
elected  to  the  church  at  Orlamiinde.  Here  he  advanced  ideas 
similar  to  those  of  Miinzer,  except  that  he  refused  to  appeal  to 
arms,  thereby  winning  the  opinion  of  that  ranter  that  he  was  a 
coward  and  a  reprobate.  His  reforms  included  the  introduction 
of  polygamy  and  the  advocacy  of  a  new  doctrine  of  the  sacra- 
ment. Luther,  who  was  inclined  to  condone  the  former,  as  not 
forbidden  by  the  Bible,  vehemently  objected  to  the  latter  as 
heretical.  Discussion  of  this  doctrine  is  reserved  for  a  later 


Notwithstanding  Carlstadt's  errors,  the  Reformer  was  not 
ready  to  break  with  him  as  soon  as  he  had  with  Miinzer.  On 
August  22, 1524,  the  two  had  a  conference  at  Jena,  and  parted 
with  a  friendly  agreement  to  differ.  "The  more  ably  you 
attack  me,"  said  Luther,  "  the  better  I  shall  like  it,"  and  gave 
his  old  colleague  a  gold  gulden  as  a  sign  that  he  was  free  to 
advance  what  opinions  he  liked  so  long  as  they  were  supported 
by  argument  only  and  not  by  violence.  In  accordance  with  this 
invitation,  the  pastor  of  Orlamunde  began  a  work  on  the  sac- 
rament, but  soon  the  order  came  to  him,  September  18,  to  leave 
Saxony.  He  went  to  Basel,  and  early  in  November  published 
several  pamphlets  against  Luther,  defending  his  doctrine  of 
the  sacrament,  denying  the  expediency  of  infant  baptism, 
asserting  that  he  had  direct  communications  from  God,  and 
charging  his  opponent  with  having  been  responsible  for  his 
exile.  These  tracts  excited  a  good  deal  of  attention.  Zwingli, 
a  far  abler  head  than  Carlstadt,  adopted  his  doctrine  of  the 
eucharist,  and  Capito,  a  reformer  of  Strassburg,  wrote  a  pam- 
phlet trying  to  harmonize  the  two  opponents,  which  was  the 
cause  of  Luther's  letter  to  the  Christians  of  that  city,  warning 
them  against  false  doctrine.  His  animus  against  his  old  col- 
league was  increased  both  by  his  pamphlets  and  by  an  experi- 
ence at  Orlamunde  described  in  this  epistle  :  — 


(Wittenberg,  December  14,  1524.) 
.  .  .  Certain  of  your  clergy  have  written  about  the  outcry  made  by 
Dr.  Carlstadt  with  his  ranting  about  images  and  the  sacrament  and 
baptism,  and  that  he  reviles  me  with  having  driven  him  from  Saxony. 
Now,  dear  friends,  I  am  not  your  preacher  and  no  one  is  bound  to 
believe  me  .  .  .  but  I  hope  you  have  seen  in*  my  writings  how  simply 
and  certainly  I  treat  the  gospel,  the  grace  of  Christ,  the  law,  faith, 
love,  the  cross,  doctrines  of  men,  the  Pope,  and  monastic  vows.  .  .  . 
Of  these  main  articles  of  faith  Carlstadt  has  not  rightly  set  forth  one, 
nor  can  he.  Now  that  I  look  into  his  writings  I  am  simply  shocked  to 
find  out,  what  I  did  not  before  suspect,  that  the  man  is  still  in  such 
deep  darkness.  It  looks  to  me  as  if  he  thought  the  whole  of  Christ- 
ianity lay  in  breaking  images  and  hindering  the  sacrament.  ...  I 
might  stand  his  raging  iconoclasm,  for  I  have  been  more  iconoclastic 


by  my  writing  than  he  by  his  raging,  but  what  is  not  to  be  borne  is  his 
imputation  that  all  who  do  not  do  as  he  bids  are  not  Christians.  .  .  . 

I  can  bear  the  charge  of  Carlstadt  that  I  drove  him  out  of  the  land. 
Were  it  true  I  could  answer  to  God  for  it.  .  .  . 

He  himself  persuaded  me  at  Jena  not  to  confound  his  spirit  with 
the  seditious,  murderous  spirit  of  Allstedt.  But  when,  at  the  Elector's 
behest,  I  went  to  his  "  Christians  "  at  Orlamunde,  I  saw  what  seed  he 
had  sown  and  was  glad  to  escape  safe,  being  driven  away  with  stones 
and  mud,  the  inhabitants  giving  me  their  blessing  with  the  words : 
"  Go  hence  in  the  name  of  a  thousand  devils,  lest  you  have  your  neck 
broken  before  you  leave."  .  .  . 

I  beg  your  preachers,  dear  brethren,  to  leave  Luther  and  Carlstadt 
and  point  only  to  Christ,  and  not  as  Carlstadt  does  only  to  the  work 
of  Christ,  and  the  example  of  Christ,  which  was  the  least  part  of  his 
mission,  in  which  he  was  like  other  saints,  but  to  Christ  as  the  gift  of 
God,  or,  as  Paul  says,  the  strength  of  God,  wisdom,  righteousness,  sanc- 
tification,  and  redemption,  given  to  us,  which  these  "  prophets  "  have 
not  tasted  nor  understood.  They  juggle  with  "their  living  voice  from 
Heaven,"  and  their  "  ecstasy,  illumination,  mortification,"  and  such 
bombastic  words  which  they  do  not  understand  themselves,  though  by 
them  they  make  consciences  heavy  while  men  wonder  at  their  great 
art  and  forget  Christ.  ... 

Shortly  after  writing  this  letter  Luther  published  a  compre- 
hensive work  Against  the  Heavenly  Prophets  of  Images  and 
the  Sacrament,  the  first  part  of  which  appeared  late  in  Decem- 
ber, the  second  half  early  in  January,  1525.  In  the  first  part 
he  says : — 

We  should  be  very  careful  to  distinguish  and  widely  to  separate 
fundamentals  concerning  the  conscience  and  things  indifferent  con- 
cerning outward  works.  .  .  .  These  ambitious  prophets  do  nothing 
but  smash  images,  break  into  churches,  lord  it  over  the  sacrament, 
and  seek  new  ways  of  mortification,  that  is,  of  self-inflicted  death 
of  the  flesh.  They  have  not  yet  learned  nor  preached  the  doctrine  of 
faith  and  how  to  rule  the  conscience,  which  is  the  principal  and  most 
necessary  Christian  doctrine.  Suppose  that  they  succeeded  in  leaving 
no  more  images  and  no  churches  standing,  and  suppose  that  they  per- 
suaded every  one  in  all  the  world  not  to  believe  that  Christ's  flesh 
and  blood  were  in  the  sacrament,  and  suppose  all  dressed  in  gray, 
peasants'   clothes,  what  would  they  gain   by  all  this  ?  .  .  .  Would 


they  be  Christians  thereby  ?   Where  would  be  faith  and   love  ?  — 
Pictures  are  defended  as  a  help  to  the  faith  of  the  ignorant. 

Luther  denies  Carlstadt's  charge  that  he  has  been  at  the 
bottom  of  the  latter's  exile.  He  brings  against  him  the  counter- 
charges, first,  of  neglecting  the  duties  of  a  professor  for  which 
he  was  paid,  and  secondly,  of  exciting  sedition,  for  either  of 
which  he  might  justly  have  been  sent  away.  "  These  prophets 
teach  that  the  reform  of  Christendom  should  start  with  a 
slaughter  of  the  godless,  that  they  themselves  may  be  lords  of 
the  earth.  I  myself  have  heard  this  from  them,  and  Dr.  Carl- 
stadt  knows  that  they  are  ranting  and  murderous  spirits.  .  .  . 
For  those  who  preach  murder  can  have  no  other  origin  than 
the  devil  himself,  even  if  they  have  all  wisdom  and  know  the 
Bible,  for  the  devil  also  knows  the  Bible  well.  Is  it  not  a 
plague  that  people  should  be  moved  by  such  spirits  before  the 
princes  know  aught  of  it,  and  that  the  populace  is  thereby 
made  presumptuous  and  turbulent?" 

The  second  part  is  on  the  doctrine  of  the  Lord's  Supper, 
Carlstadt's  arguments  being  answered  one  by  one. 

The  work  had  great  notoriety  but  little  success.  The  Strass- 
burgers  were  rather  alienated  by  it  and  inclined  to  side  with 
the  exile.  Public  attention  was  soon  drawn  from  the  quarrel 
of  Luther  and  the  prophets  to  afar  larger  movement  in  which 
it  was  swallowed  up,  the  Peasants'  Eevolt. 

Before  describing  that  important  event,  let  us  glance  at  the 
latter  end  of  Carlstadt.  The  death  of  Miinzer  and  other  agitat- 
ors, in  the  defeat  of  the  peasants,  made  him  fear  for  his  life. 
Not  knowing  where  to  turn,  he  went  back  to  Wittenberg  and 
besought  a  refuge  with  the  Reformer.  From  near  the  first  of 
July  till  late  in  September  he  was  sheltered  by  his  old  col- 
league and  opponent,  who  wrote  a  letter  to  the  Elector,  on  Sep- 
tember 12,  asking  him  to  allow  Carlstadt  to  live  peaceably  at 
Kemberg.  This  petition  was  refused  ;  the  fanatic  had  to  leave, 
and  wandered  long  from  place  to  place,  until  at  last  he  became 
professor  in  the  University  of  Basel.  He  had  learned  his  lesson 
and  never  more  was  a  political  agitator. 



Peasant  risings  were  not  uncommon  in  Europe  for  more 
than  a  millennium.  Such  an  insurrection  had  taken  place  in 
Gaul  in  Roman  times.  Such  were  the  Jacquerie  in  France 
in  1358  and  the  gigantic  strike  of  English  laborers  in  1381. 
The  struggle  for  Swiss  freedom  also  may  be  viewed  as  a  social 
as  well  as  a  national  conflict.  The  fifteenth  and  early  sixteenth 
centuries  saw  many  local  revolts.  To  the  old  standing  grievances 
of  the  lords'  tyranny,  the  heavy  taxes  and  tithes,  the  game 
laws,  the  corvee  and  serfdom,  common  causes  of  all  these  ris- 
ings alike,  new  motives  were  added  to  make  this  last  the  most 
terrible,  among  them  the  prevalent  intellectual  unrest  and  the 
powerful  leaven  of  the  new  religious  teaching. 

Luther,  indeed,  could  honestly  say  that  he  had  consistently 
preached  the  duty  of  obedience  and  the  wickedness  of  sedition, 
nevertheless  his  democratic  message  of  the  brotherhood  of  man 
and  the  excellence  of  the  humblest  Christian  worked  in  many 
ways  undreamed  of  by  himself.  Moreover,  he  had  mightily 
championed  the  cause  of  the  oppressed  commoner  against  his 
masters.  "  The  people  neither  can  nor  will  endure  your  tyranny 
any  longer,"  said  he  to  the  nobles ;  "  God  will  not  endure  it ; 
the  world  is  not  what  it  once  was  when  you  drove  and  hunted 
men  like  wild  beasts."  Other  preachers,  among  whom  Carl- 
stadt  and  Miinzer  were  two  conspicuous  examples,  took  up  the 
word  and  carried  it  to  the  wildest  conclusions  of  communism 
and  anarchy. 

Beginning  in  the  autumn  of  1524,  in  the  highlands  between 
the  sources  of  the  Rhine  and  the  Danube,  the  rebellion  swept 
north  through  Frariconia  and  Swabia.  The  demands  of  the 
insurgents  were  embodied  in  the  Twelve  Articles,  drawn  up 
not  later  than  February,  1525,  by  a  Swabian,  Sebastian  Lotzer, 
and  tacitly  adopted  as  the  official  programme  by  most  of  the 


bands  of  rustics.  The  fundamental  principle  of  this  document 
is  the  entire  assimilation  of  civil  and  divine  law ;  all  claims  are 
supported  by  an  appeal  to  the  gospel,  under  which  rule  the 
insurgents  declare  their  intention  to  live.  The  articles  propose 
the  free  election  by  each  parish  of  its  pastor,  the  reduction  of 
taxes  and  tithes,  the  abolition  of  serfdom,  freedom  to  hunt,  fish, 
and  cut  wood  in  the  forests,  less  forced  labor,  reopening  of 
commons  to  the  public,  substitution  of  the  old  (German)  for 
the  new  (Roman)  law,  and  abolition  of  the  heriot. 

Continuing  to  spread,  the  insurrection  reached  Thuringia 
and  Saxony  about  April,  1525.  In  this  region  all  eyes  were 
turned  to  Luther,  the  man  of  the  people.  In  one  pamphlet, 
dated  March  7,  the  peasants  requested  him,  together  with 
Melanchthon,  Bugenhagen,  and  the  Elector  Frederic  to  act  as 
arbitrators  between  them  and  the  lords.  As  yet  Luther  had 
not  heard  of  the  atrocities  committed  by  some  of  the  rebels. 
But  there  was  danger  in  the  air.  At  the  invitation  of  his  old 
lord,  Count  Albert  of  Mansfeld,  he  journeyed  to  Eisleben  to 
investigate  the  situation.  Here,  while  the  guest  of  Chancellor 
Diirr,  on  April  19  and  20,  he  composed  An  Exhortation  to 
Peace  on  the  Twelve  Articles  of  the  Swabian  Peasants.  By 
this  warning,  which  he  states  is  written  in  answer  to  the  request 
of  the  insurgents  for  instruction,  he  hoped  to  bring  both  sides 
to  reason  and  prevent  the  effusion  of  blood.  He  addresses  each 
party  by  turns,  the  lords  and  the  commoners.  To  the  former 
he  says : — 

"  We  need  thank  no  one  on  earth  for  this  foolish  rebellion  but  you, 
my  lords,  and  especially  you  blind  bishops,  parsons  and  monks,  for  you, 
even  yet  hardened,  cease  not  to  rage  against  the  holy  gospel,  although 
you  know  that  our  cause  is  right  and  you  cannot  controvert  it.  Besides 
this,  in  civil  government  you  do  nothing  but  oppress  and  tax  to  main- 
tain your  pomp  and  pride,  until  the  poor  common  man  neither  can 
nor  will  bear  it  any  longer.  The  sword  is  at  your  throat,  and  yet  you 
still  think  you  sit  so  firm  in  the  saddle  that  no  one  can  hoist  you  out. 
You  will  find  out  that  by  such  hardened  presumption  you  will  break 
your  necks.  ...  If  these  peasants  don't  do  it,  others  will ;  God  will 
appoint  others,  for  he  intends  to  smite  you  and  will  smite  you." 

Some  say  the  rebellion  has  been  caused  by  Luther's  doctrine,  but  he 


avers  that  he  has  always  taught  obedience  to  the  powers  that  be. 
"  But  the  prophets  of  murder  are  hostile  to  you  as  to  me,  and  they 
have  gone  among  the  people  these  three  years  and  no  one  has  with- 
stood them  but  I." 

Some  of  the  peasants'  articles  are  right,  as  the  demand  to  choose 
their  own  pastors  and  the  repudiation  of  the  heriot. 

To  the  peasantry  he  says :  — 

"It  is  my  friendly  and  fraternal  prayer,  dearest  brothers,  to  be 
very  careful  what  you  do.  Believe  not  all  spirits  and  preachers." 
Those  who  take  the  sword  shall  perish  by  the  sword  and  every  soul 
should  be  subject  to  the  powers  that  be,  in  fear  and  honor.  "  If  the 
government  is  bad  and  intolerable,  that  is  no  excuse  for  riot  and  insur- 
rection, for  to  punish  evil  belongs  not  to  every  one,  but  to  the  civil 
authority  which  bears  the  sword."  Suffering  tyranny  is  a  cross  given 
by  God.    Luther  will  pray  for  them. 

Coming  to  a  consideration  of  the  Twelve  Articles  he  says 
that  even  if  they  were  all  just,  the  peasants  would  have  no  right 
to  put  them  through  by  force.  The  first  article,  for  the  right  to 
elect  pastors,  is  right.  The  second  demand,  that  the  tithes  be 
divided  between  the  priest  and  the  poor,  is  simple  robbery,  for 
the  tithes  belong  to  the  government.  The  third,  for  the  aboli- 
tion of  serfdom  on  the  ground  that  Christ  has  freed  all,  makes 
Christian  freedom  a  carnal  thing  and  is  therefore  unjustified. 
The  other  eight  articles  (that  on  the  heriot  having  been  already 
approved)  are  referred  to  the  lawyers. 

The  pamphlet  closes  with  a  solemn  charge  to  each  side  to 
strive  not  for  its  own  gain,  but  for  the  right,  and  a  warning 
to  keep  the  peace. 

•  Excellent  as  were  Luther's  intentions,  his  exhortation  was 
imprudently  expressed.  In  any  case,  however,  interference  came 
too  late.  Already  on  April  16,  the  rebel  bands  had  stormed 
Weinsberg  and  massacred  the  inhabitants;  within  the  next 
two  weeks  cloisters  and  castles  were  burned  to  the  ground, 
while  violence,  anarchy,  and  rapine  followed  with  all  the 
ferocity  characteristic  of  class  warfare.  The  nobles  made  what 
terms  they  could ;  the  towns  either  capitulated  or  joined  the 
rising  in  full  force.    At  Miihlhausen,  Miinzer,  thinking  the 


hour  of  triumph  had  come,  urged  the  divine  duty  of  ruthless 

The  princes  were  entirely  unprepared.  Old  Frederic  was 
lying  mortally  ill  at  his  castle  of  Lochau.  Without  troops  and 
unnerved  by  disease,  he  wrote  his  brother  John  that  if  it  was 
God's  will  that  the  common  man  should  rule  he  would  not  re- 
sist it.  John,  too,  was  without  hope :  "  There  are  thirty-five 
thousand  men  in  the  field  against  us,"  he  wrote ;  "  we  are  but 
lost  princes." 

For  one  awful  moment  it  looked  as  if  the  insurgents  would 
carry  all  before  them.  Luther  saw  the  whole  of  Germany 
threatened  with  anarchy,  and  the  Evangelic  cause  with  extinc- 
tion. Never  found  wanting  in  the  hour  of  danger,  he  continued 
his  journey  through  the  disaffected  districts,  preaching  against 
the  rising.  According  to  the  somewhat  unreliable  table-talk 
he  met  with  a  hostile  reception  at  some  places ;  at  any  rate  his 
intervention  did  no  good.  He  found  himself,  on  May  4,  at  See- 
burg,  in  Mansfeld.  Not  a  single  blow  had  yet  been  struck  in 
the  cause  of  order.  Luther  saw  that  the  only  means  left  to  re- 
store peace  was  force,  and  accordingly  wrote  the  following  stern 
letter  to  one  of  the  councillors  of  the  Count  of  Mansfeld  :  — 


Sebbueg,  May  4, 1525. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Honored  and  dear  doctor  and  friend ! 
I  have  been  intending  to  answer  your  last  tidings,  recently  shown  me, 
here  on  my  journey.  First  of  all  I  beg  you  not  to  make  our  gracious 
lord,  Count  Albert,  weak  in  this  matter,  but  let  him  go  on  as  he  has 
begun,  though  it  will  only  make  the  devil  still  angrier,  so  that  he  will 
rage  more  than  ever  through  those  limbs  of  Satan  he  has  possessed. 
We  have  God's  Word,  which  lies  not  but  says,  "  He  beareth  not  the 
sword  in  vain,  etc.,"  so  there  is  no  doubt  that  his  lordship  has  been 
ordained  and  commanded  of  God.  His  Grace  will  need  the  sword  to 
punish  the  wicked  as  long  as  there  are  such  sores  in  the  body  politic 
as  now  exist.  Should  the  sword  be  struck  out  of  his  Grace's  hand  by 
force,  we  must  suffer  it,  and  give  it  back  to  God,  who  first  gave  it  and 
can  take  it  back  how  and  when  he  will. 

May  his  Grace  also  have  a  good  conscience  in  case  he  should  have 
to  die  for  God's  Word,  for  God  has  so  ordered  it,  if  he  permits  it ;  no 


one  should  leave  off  the  good  work  until  he  is  prevented  by  force, 
just  as  in  battle  no  one  should  forego  an  advantage  or  leave  off  fight- 
ing until  he  is  overcome. 

If  there  were  thousands  more  peasants  than  there  are  they  would 
all  be  robbers  and  murderers,  who  take  the  sword  with  criminal  in- 
tent to  drive  out  lords,  princes,  and  all  else,  and  make  a  new  order  in 
the  world  for  which  they  have  from  God  neither  command,  right, 
power,  nor  injunction,  as  the  lords  now  have  to  suppress  them.  They 
are  faithless  and  perjured,  and  still  worse  they  bring  the  Divine  Word 
and  gospel  to  shame  and  dishonor,  a  most  horrible  sin.  If  God  in  his 
wrath  really  lets  them  accomplish  their  purpose,  for  which  he  has 
given  them  no  command  nor  right,  we  must  suffer  it  as  we  do  other 
wickedness,  but  not  acquiesce  in  it  as  if  they  did  right. 

I  hope  they  will  have  no  success  nor  staying  power,  although  God 
at  times  plagues  the  world  with  desperate  men  as  he  has  done  and  yet 
does  with  the  Turks.  It  is  the  devil's  mockery  that  the  peasants  give 
out  that  they  will  hurt  no  one  and  do  no  harm.  No  harm  to  drive  out 
and  kill  their  masters  ?  If  they  mean  no  harm,  why  do  they  gather  in 
hordes  and  demand  that  others  surrender  to  them  ?  To  do  no  harm 
and  yet  to  take  all  —  that  is  what  the  devil,  too,  knows  how  to  do.  If 
we  let  him  do  what  he  likes,  forsooth  he  harms  no  one. 

Their  only  reason  for  driving  out  their  lords  is  pure  wickedness. 
Look  at  the  government  they  have  set  up,  the  worst  that  ever  was, 
without  order  or  discipline  in  it  but  only  pillage.  If  God  wishes  to 
chastize  us  in  his  wrath,  he  can  find  no  fitter  instrument  than  these 
enemies  of  his,  criminals,  robbers,  murderers,  faithless,  perjured  peas- 
ants. If  it  be  God's  will,  let  us  suffer  it  and  call  them  lords  as  the  Scrip- 
ture calls  the  devil  prince  and  lord.  May  God  keep  all  good  Christians 
from  honoring  and  worshipping  them  as  the  devil  tried  to  make  Christ 
worship  him.  Let  us  withstand  them  by  word  and  deed  as  long  as  ever 
we  can  and  then  die  for  it  in  God's  name. 

They  purpose  to  hurt  no  one  if  only  we  yield  to  them ;  and  so  we 
should  yield  to  them,  should  we  ?  Must  we  indeed  acknowledge  as  our 
rulers  these  faithless,  perjured,  blasphemous  robbers,  who  have  no 
right  from  God,  but  only  the  support  of  the  prince  of  this  world,  as  he 
boasts  in  Matthew,  chapter  four,  that  he  has  dominion  and  honor  over 
all  the  world  to  give  it  to  whom  he  will  ?  That  is  true  enough  when 
God  punishes  and  does  not  protect. 

This  matter  concerns  me  deeply,  for  the  devil  wishes  to  kill  me. 
I  see  that  he  is  angry  that  hitherto  he  has  been  able  to  accomplish 
nothing  either  by  fraud  or  force ;  he  thinks  that  if  he  were  only  free  of 


me  he  could  do  as  he  liked  and  confound  the  whole  world  together,  so 
I  almost  believe  that  I  am  the  cause  that  the  devil  can  do  such  things 
in  the  world,  whereby  God  punishes  it.  Well,  if  I  ever  get  home  I  will 
meet  my  death  with  God's  aid,  and  await  my  new  masters,  the  mur- 
derers and  robbers  who  tell  me  they  will  harm  no  one.  Highway  rob- 
bers always  say  the  same  :  "  I  will  do  you  no  harm,  but  give  me  all 
you  have  or  you  shall  die."  Beautiful  innocence  !  How  fairly  the  devil 
decks  himself  and  his  murderers  !  Before  I  would  yield  and  say  what 
they  want,  I  would  lose  my  head  a  hundred  times,  God  granting  me 
his  grace.  If  I  can  do  it  before  I  die,  I  will  yet  take  my  Katie  to  wife 
to  spite  the  devil,  when  I  hear  that  they  are  after  me.  I  hope  they 
will  not  take  away  my  joy  and  good  spirits. 

Some  say  the  insurgents  are  not  followers  of  Mtinzer  —  that  let  their 
own  god  believe,  for  no  one  else  will. 

I  write  to  strengthen  you  to  strengthen  others,  especially  my  gracious 
lord  Count  Albert.  Encourage  his  Grace  to  go  forth  with  good  spirit, 
and  may  God  grant  him  success,  and  let  him  fulfil  the  divine  injunc- 
tion to  bear  the  sword  as  long  as  ever  he  can  ;  conscience  at  least  is 
safe  in  case  he  fall.  If  God  permit  the  peasants  to  extirpate  the  princes 
to  fulfil  his  wrath,  he  will  give  them  hell  fire  for  it  as  a  reward.  The 
just  judge  will  come  shortly  to  judge  both  them  and  us  —  us  with 
grace,  as  we  have  suffered  by  their  crimes  of  violence,  them  with  wrath, 
for  they  who  take  the  sword  must  perish  by  the  sword  as  Christ  said. 
Their  work  and  success  cannot  long  stand. 

Greet  your  dear  wife  for  me. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

Very  soon  after  writing  this  letter,  Luther  published  a  short 
tract  Against  the  Thievish,  Murderous  Hordes  of  Peasants, 
expressed  in  much  the  same  tone  :  — 

"In  my  former  book"  (Exhortation  to  Peace)  he  writes,  "I  dared 
not  judge  the  peasants,  since  they  asked  to  be  instructed,  and  Christ 
says  Judge  not.  But  before  I  could  look  around  they  forget  their  re- 
quest and  betake  themselves  to  violence,  —  rob,  rage,  and  act  like  mad 
dogs,  whereby  one  may  see  what  they  had  in  their  false  minds,  and 
that  their  pretence  to  speak  in  the  name  of  the  gospel  in  the  Twelve 
Articles  was  a  simple  lie.  They  do  mere  devil's  work,  especially  that 
Satan  of  Muhlhausen  does  nothing  but  rob,  murder,  and  pour  out 

The  peasants  have  deserved  death  for  three  reasons :  (1)  because  they 


have  broken  their  oath  of  fealty  ;  (2)  for  rioting  and  plundering  ;  and 
(3)  for  having  covered  their  terrible  sins  with  the  name  of  the  gospel. 
<k  Wherefore,  my  lords,  free,  save,  help,  and  pity  the  poor  people  ;  stab, 
smite,  and  slay,  all  ye  that  can.  If  you  die  in  battle  you  could  never 
have  a  more  blessed  end,  for  you  die  obedient  to  God's  Word  in  Ro- 
mans 13,  and  in  the  service  of  love  to  free  your  neighbor  from  the 
bands  of  hell  and  the  devil.  I  implore  every  one  who  can  to  avoid  the 
peasants  as  he  would  the  devil  himself.  I  pray  God  will  enlighten 
them  and  turn  their  hearts.  But  if  they  do  not  turn,  I  wish  them  no 
happiness  for  ever  more.  .  .  .  Let  none  think  this  too  hard  who  con- 
siders how  intolerable  is  rebellion." 

Almost  as  Luther  was  writing,  steps  were  taken  to  suppress 
the  insurgents.  On  May  5  the  Count  of  Mansfeld,  with  a  few 
personal  retainers,  scattered  a  small  band  near  Osterhausen,  a 
success  insignificant  in  itself  but  important  as  the  first  blow 
struck  for  order  in  central  Germany. 

The  decisive  battle  followed  not  long  after.  Philip  of  Hesse, 
the  ablest  of  the  Evangelic  princes  after  Frederic  the  Wise, 
having  come  to  terms  with  his  own  peasants  by  negotiation, 
gathered  an  army  and  marched,  in  cooperation  with  other 
lords,  against  eight  thousand  rebels  at  Frankenhausen.  Hoping 
to  come  to  a  peaceful  agreement,  Philip  found  the  peasants 
ready  to  negotiate  until  on  May  12  Miinzer  arrived  with  rein- 
forcements from  Miihlhausen  and  roused  the  poor  men  by  his 
baleful  eloquence  to  such  a  pitch  of  fanaticism,  that,  in  reliance 
on  divine  help,  they  refused  all  terms.  When  the  troops  at- 
tacked them  on  May  15,  the  raw  countrymen  fled  in  the  wildest 
panic,  more  than  half  of  them  perishing  on  the  field.  Miinzer 
was  captured  and  put  to  death. 

Riihel  sent  the  tidings  to  Luther  on  May  21,  and  received 
the  following  answer :  — 


Wittenberg,  May  23,  1525. 
God's  grace  and  peace.  I  thank  you,  honored  and  dear  sir,  for  your 
news.  I  am  especially  pleased  at  the  fall  of  Thomas  Miinzer.  Please 
let  me  have  further  details  of  his  capture  and  of  how  he  acted,  for  it 
is  important  to  know  how  that  proud  spirit  bore  itself. 


*"  It  is  pitiful  that  we  have  to  be  so  cruel  to  the  poor  people,  but  what 
can  we  do  ?  It  is  necessary  and  God  wills  it  that  fear  may  be  brought 
on  the  people.  Otherwise  Satan  brings  forth  mischief.  God  said :  Who 
hath  taken  the  sword  shall  perish  by  the  sword.  It  is  gratifying  that 
their  spirit  be  at  last  so  plainly  revealed,  so  that  henceforth  the  peas- 
ants will  know  how  wrong  they  were  and  perhaps  leave  off  rioting,  or 
at  least  do  it  less.  Do  not  be  troubled  about  the  severity  of  their  sup- 
pression, for  it  will  profit  many  souls.  .  .  . 

After  the  lords  had  the  upper  hand  the  insurrection  was 
put  down  with  the  utmost  cruelty.  At  Frankenhausen  and  else- 
where the  soldiers  far  outdid  the  peasants  in  acts  of  violence 
and  blood.  It  is  estimated  that  one  hundred  thousand  of  the 
poor  rustics  perished,  and  the  rest  sank  back  into  a  more 
wretched  state  than  before. 

The  danger  past  and  the  pity  of  the  public  aroused,  Luther's 
enemies  raised  a  great  outcry  against  him,  accusing  him  of  be- 
traying his  allies  and  the  men  whom  his  teaching  had  mis- 
guided, and  most  of  all  for  the  cruelty  of  his  pamphlet.  What- 
ever foundation  these  charges  may  have,  there  is  absolutely  none 
in  the  accusation  that  he  sided  with  the  insurgents  while  they 
seemed  likely  to  win  and  then  turned  to  curry  favor  with  the 
princes  when  they  had  triumphed.  The  direct  opposite  was 
the  truth,  and  Luther,  excited  by  these  widespread  charges, 
defends  himself  with  spirit  in  a  letter  to  an  old  colleague. 


Wittenberg,  May  30,  1525. 

Grace  and  peace.  You  write  of  a  new  honor  for  me,  dear  Amsdorf, 
namely  that  I  am  called  the  toady  of  the  princes ;  Satan  has  conferred 
many  such  honors  upon  me  during  the  past  years.  .  .   . 

My  opinion  is  that  it  is  better  that  all  the  peasants  be  killed  than 
that  the  princes  and  magistrates  perish,  because  the  rustics  took  the 
sword  without  divine  authority.  The  only  possible  consequence  of 
their  satanic  wickedness  would  be  the  diabolic  devastation  of  the 
kingdom  of  God.  Even  if  the  princes  abuse  their  power,  yet  they  have 
it  of  God,  and  under  their  rule  the  kingdom  of  God  at  least  has  a 
chance  to  exist.  Wherefore  no  pity,  no  tolerance  should  be  shown  to 
the  peasants,  but  the  fury  and  wrath  of  God  should  be  visited  upon 
those  men  who  did  not  heed  warning  nor  yield  when  just  terms  were 


offered  them,  but  continued  with  satanic  fury  to  confound  every- 
thing. ...  To  justify,  pity,  or  favor  them  is  to  deny,  blaspheme,  and 
try  to  pull  God  from  heaven.  ... 

Thus  also,  in  a  note  inviting  John  Riihel  to  his  wedding 
feast,  the  Reformer  says  (June  15, 1526)  :  "  What  an  outcry  of 
Harrow  has  been  caused  by  my  pamphlet  against  the  peasants. 
All  is  now  forgotten  that  God  has  done  for  the  world  through 
me.  Now  lords,  priests,  and  peasants  are  all  against  me  and 
threaten  my  death." 

Riihel  accepted  the  invitation  and  brought  with  him  a  letter 
from  the  Chancellor  Caspar  Miiller  suggesting  that  the  Reformer 
should  defend  himself  against  the  attacks  made  upon  him.  In 
answer  to  this  Luther  published  in  July  an  open  letter  to 
Miiller,  under  the  title :  On  the  Hard  Pamphlet  against  the 
Peasants.  In  this  he  has  nothing  to  retract.  "  One  cannot 
answer  a  rebel  with  reason,"  he  argues,  "  but  the  best  answer  is 
to  hit  him  with  the  fist  until  blood  flows  from  his  nose."  (Mit 
der  faust  mus  man  solchen  meulern  antworten,  das  der  schweys 
zur  nasen  ausgehe.)  He  never  meant  to  urge  slaughter  after 
battle,  u  but  neither  did  I  undertake  to  instruct  those  mad,  rag- 
ing, insane  tyrants,  who  even  after  combat  cannot  satiate  their 
thirst  for  blood  and  never  in  their  whole  life  long  ask  after 
Christ,  for  it  is  all  the  same  to  such  bloodhounds  whether  they 
are  guilty  or  innocent,  or  whether  they  please  God  or  the  devil. 
They  use  the  sword  to  satisfy  their  passions,  so  I  leave  them  to 
their  master  the  devil." 

That  Luther  really  pitied  the  poor  people  after  their  defeat 
is  shown  by  an  intercessory  letter  :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  July  21,  1525. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Jesus  Christ.  Most  venerable  Father  in  God, 
most  serene,  highborn  Prince,  most  gracious  Lord.  I  am  informed 
that  one  Asmus  Gunthel,  the  son  of  a  citizen  of  Eisleben,  has  been 
arrested  by  your  Grace  on  the  charge  of  having  stormed  a  barricade. 
His  father  is  sore  distressed  and  tells  me  he  did  not  take  part  in  the 
storming,  but  only  ate  and  drank  there  at  the  time,  and  as  he  begged 
me  piteously  to  intercede  for  his  life  I  could  not  refuse  him.  I  humbly 


pray  your  Grace  to  consider  that  this  insurrection  has  been  put  down 
not  by  the  hand  of  man  but  by  the  grace  of  God  who  pities  us  all,  and 
especially  those  in  authority,  and  that  accordingly  you  treat  the  poor 
people  graciously  and  mercifully  as  becomes  a  spiritual  lord  even  more 
than  a  temporal  bne.  .  .  . 

Alas !  there  are  too  many  who  treat  the  people  horribly  and  so  act 
unthankfully  to  God  as  if  they  would  recklessly  awaken  the  wrath  of 
Heaven  and  of  the  people  again  and  provoke  a  new  and  worse  rebel- 
lion. God  has  decreed  that  those  who  show  no  mercy  should  also  perish 
without  mercy. 

It  is  not  good  for  a  lord  to  raise  displeasure,  ill-will  and  hostility 
among  his  subjects,  and  it  is  likewise  foolish  to  do  so.  It  is  right  to 
show  sternness  when  the  commonalty  are  seditious  and  stubborn,  but 
now  that  they  are  beaten  down  they  are  a  different  people,  worthy  that 
mercy  be  shown  them  in  judgment.  Putting  too  much  in  a  bag  bursts 
it.  Moderation  is  good  in  all  things,  and,  as  St.  James  says,  mercy 
rejoiceth  against  judgment.  I  hope  your  Grace  will  act  as  a  Christian 
in  this  matter.    God  bless  you.    Amen. 

Your  Grace's  obedient  servant, 

Martin  Luther. 

The  Peasants'  War  was  the  hardest  storm  weathered  by  the 
new  Church.  Had  not  an  iron  hand  been  at  the  helm  it  might 
well  have  foundered  the  ship  of  reform  and  scattered  all  that 
was  hopeful  and  good  in  it  in  a  thousand  fragments.  As  it  was,  the 
cause  suffered  heavily,  and  the  reputation  of  its  leader  suffered 
still  more.  In  steering  too  far  from  the  dread  whirlpool  which 
would  have  engulfed  all  his  cause,  he  sailed  too  close  to  the  Scylla 
on  the  other  side  and  lost  men  thereby.  From  his  own  day  to 
the  present  he  has  been  reproached  with  cruelty  to  the  poor 
people  who  were  partly  misguided  by  what  they  believed  to  be 
his  voice.  And  yet,  much  as  the  admirers  of  Luther  must  and 
do  regret  his  terrible  violence  of  expression,  the  impartial  his- 
torian can  hardly  doubt  that  in  substance  he  was  right.  No 
government  in  the  world  could  have  allowed  rebellion  to  go 
unpunished ;  no  sane  man  could  believe  that  any  argument  but 
arms  would  have  availed.  Luther  first  tried  the  way  of  peace, 
he  then  risked  his  life  preaching  against  the  rising  ;  finally  he 
urged  the  use  of  the  sword  as  the  ultima  ratio.  He  was  right 
to  do  so,  though  he  put  himself  in  the  wrong  by  his  immoderate 


zeal.  It  would  have  been  more  becoming  for  Luther,  the  peas- 
ant and  the  hero  of  the  peasants,  had  he  shown  greater  sym- 
pathy with  their  cause  and  more  mercy.  Had  he  done,  so  his 
name  would  have  escaped  the  charge  of  cruelty  with  which  it  is 
now  stained. 



From  fierce  war  Luther's  thoughts  were  turned  to  faithful,  if 
unromantic  love.  Although  convinced  while  still  at  the  Wart- 
burg  of  the  nullity  of  vows  of  celibacy,  it  was  a  long  time,  as 
Erasmus  sneered,  before  he  made  use  of  the  liberty  he  preached 
to  others.  After  all  the  brothers  save  one,  Brisger,  had  departed 
to  take  up  a  worldly  career,  he  continued  to  reside  at  the  Black 
Cloister,  as  the  Augustinian  monastery  was  called,  not  from  its 
own  color,  a  brick  red,  but  from  the  popular  designation  of  its 
dark-robed  inmates  as  black  monks.  Having  laid  aside  their 
cowls  and  assumed  the  simple  garb  of  laymen,  the  two  like- 
minded  men  dwelt  here  with  one  servant,  a  student  of  theology 
named  Sieberger.  The  building  was  large,  but  as  the  revenues 
had  been  dissipated  by  the  custom  of  giving  a  handsome  pre- 
sent to  each  departing  brother,  the  two  remaining  inhabitants 
dwelt  in  poverty,  for  the  professor  had  a  salary  of  but  one  hun- 
dred gulden.  One  of  his  reminiscences  of  this  period  paints  a 
speaking  picture  of  his  manner  of  life :  — 

Before  I  was  married,  the  bed  was  not  made  up  for  a  whole  year 
and  became  foul  with  sweat.  But  I  worked  all  day  and  was  so  tired  at 
night  that  I  fell  into  bed  without  knowing  that  anything  was  amiss. 

t*"*""*"M~*7  When  at  last  he  decided  to  marry,  it  was  something  of  an 
^>*-<^v^ .  accident  that  his  choice  fell  upon  Catharine  von  Bora.  She  had 
been  born,  on  January  29,  1499,  at  Lippendorf,  a  hamlet  some 
twenty  miles  south  of  Leipsic.  The  name  Bora  (cognate  in  form 
and  meaning  with  our  word^r)  is,  like  that  of  Staupitz  and 
other  aristocratic  families  of  the  region,  of  Wendish  or  Slavonic 
origin,  but  the  family,  deriving  its  name  from  the  village  of 
Bora,  was  Teutonic.  Catharine's  father,  Hans  von  Bora,  held 
modest  estates,  a  portion  of  which,  the  farm  of  Zulsdorf,  later 
passed  by  purchase  to  his  famous  son-in-law.    The   mother, 


Catharine  von  Haugwitz,  died  shortly  after  the  birth  of  her 
little  girl,  and  Hans,  marrying  again,  sent  his  five-year-old 
daughter  to  the  convent  school  of  the  Benedictine  nuns  near 
Brehna.  About  four  years  later  he  transferred  her  to  a  Cister- 
cian cloister  at  Nimbschen  near  Grimma,  intending  that  in  due 
time  she  should  become  a  nun.  Nimbschen  was  a  wealthy  foun- 
dation in  which  the  education  of  the  girls  and  their  taking  of 
the  veil  were  gratuitous ;  it  was  therefore  largely  patronized  by 
gentlemen  like  Bora  of  more  influence  than  means.  At  the  time 
of  her  entrance,  one  of  her  relatives  was  abbess,  and  another, 
Auntie  Lena,  as  she  afterwards  came  to  be  known  at  Witten- 
berg, was  a  sister. 

The  quiet  years  at  Nimbschen,  hardly  broken  by  Catharine's 
consecration  as  a  nun  at  the  age  of  sixteen  (October  8,  1515), 
were  spent  in  the  round  of  devotion,  learning  and  teaching, 
prayer  and  charity,  which  form  the  routine  of  monastic  life. 
The  girl  was  well  educated ;  besides  the  elementary  accomplish- 
ments of  reading  and  writing  her  own  tongue  (not  so  common 
then  as  now),  she  knew  some  Latin.  The  cloister  had  large  es- 
tates, tilled  under  the  direct  supervision  of  the  nuns,  so  that  she 
may  have  here  gained  that  knowledge  of  practical  farming  which 
she  later  turned  to  good  account. 

In  almost  any  other  age  and  country,  Catharine  would  have 
finished  her  life  in  the  convent  as  quietly  as  she  had  begun  it. 
But  she  lived  in  stirring  times.  Luther's  proclamation  of  mon- 
astic emancipation  was  promptly  followed  by  a  general  evacua- 
tion of  the  cloisters,  especially  those  of  his  own  order,  one  of 
which  was  situated  at  Grimma.  Inspired  by  the  example  of  these 
monks  several  of  the  sisters  at  Nimbschen  tried  to  follow  it.  One 
who  was  caught  writing  to  Luther  was  severely  disciplined. 
This  did  not  prevent  the  others  from  doing  the  same,  and  it  was 
at  his  advice  that,  after  vainly  applying  to  their  relatives  to  re- 
ceive them,  twelve  of  the  younger  nuns  secured  the  aid  of  Leon- 
ard Coppe,  a  wealthy  and  honorable  burger  of  Torgau  who  had 
long  stood  in  business  relations  with  Nimbschen.  Though  the 
attempt  was  not  without  danger,  for  the  abduction  of  a  nun 
was  a  capital  offence,  he,  with  the  assistance  of  his  nephew  and 
another  young  man,  helped  them  to  escape  on  the  night  of  April 


4-5, 1523.  Three  of  them  went  to  their  own  homes,  the  other  nine 
were  conveyed  by  Coppe  first  to  Torgau  and  then  to  Wittenberg. 
The  Reformer,  who  at  once  took  up  their  cause,  defending  them 
in  a  publication,  announces  their  arrival  in  these  words:  — 


Wittenberg,  April  10,  1523. 

Grace  and  peace.  Nine  fugitive  nuns,  a  wretched  crowd,  have  been 
brought  to  me  by  honest  citizens  of  Torgau.  I  mean  Leonard  Coppe 
and  his  nephew  Wolf  Tomitzsch ;  there  is  therefore  no  cause  for  sus- 
picion. I  pity  them  much,  but  most  of  all  the  others  who  are  dying 
everywhere  in  such  numbers  in  their  cursed  and  impure  celibacy.  This 
sex  so  very,  very  weak,  joined  by  nature  or  rather  by  God  to  the  other, 
perishes  when  cruelly  separated.  O  tyrants  !  O  cruel  parents  and  kins- 
men in  Germany !  O  Pope  and  bishops,  who  can  curse  you  enough  ? 
Who  can  sufficiently  execrate  the  blind  fury  which  has  taught  and  en- 
forced such  things  ?  But  this  is  not  the  place  to  do  it. 

You  ask  what  I  shall  do  with  them  ?  First  I  shall  inform  their  re- 
latives and  ask  them  to  support  the  girls  ;  if  they  will  not  I  shall  have 
the  girls  otherwise  provided  for.  Some  of  the  families  have  already 
promised  me  to  take  them ;  for  some  I  shall  get  husbands  if  I  can. 
Their  names  are  :  Magdalene  von  Staupitz,1  Elsa  von  Canitz,  Ave  Gross, 
Ave  von  Schonfeld  and  her  sister  Margaret,  Laneta  von  Goltz,  Mar- 
garet and  Catharine  Zeschau  and  Catharine  von  Bora.  Here  are  they, 
who  serve  Christ,  in  need  of  true  pity.  They  have  escaped  from  the 
cloister  in  miserable  condition.  I  pray  you  also  to  do  the  work  of 
charity  and  beg  some  money  for  me  from  your  rich  courtiers,  by  which 
I  can  support  the  girls  a  week  or  two  until  their  kinsmen  or  others 
provide  for  them.  For  my  Capernaans  have  no  wealth  but  that  of  the 
Word,  so  that  I  myself  could  not  find  the  loan  of  ten  gulden  for  a  poor 
citizen  the  other  day.  The  poor,  who  would  willingly  give,  have  nothing ; 
the  rich  either  refuse  or  give  so  reluctantly  that  they  lose  the  credit  of 
the  gift  with  God  and  take  up  my  time  begging  from  them.  Nothing 
is  too  much  for  the  world  and  its  way.  Of  my  annual  salary  I  have  only 
ten  or  fifteen  gulden  left,  besides  which  not  a  penny  has  been  given 
me  by  my  brothers  or  by  the  city.  But  I  ask  them  for  nothing,  to  em- 
ulate the  boast  of  Paul,  despoiling  other  churches  to  serve  my  Corinth- 
ians free.  .  .  .  Farewell  and  pray  for  me. 

Martin  Luther. 

1  A  sister  of  Luther's  friend  John  von  Staupitz,  but  much  younger  than  her 


Luther  was  as  good  as  his  word  in  providing  for  the  fugi- 
tives. For  Staupitz's  sister  he  interceded  so  effectually  with  the 
clergy  of  Grimma  that  a  little  house  was  presented  her  in  that 
town  in  remembrance  of  her  brother.  For  another  nun  the  Re- 
former secured  the  position  of  teacher,  while  most  of  the  rest 
returned  to  their  relatives  or  married.  The  three  who  remained 
longest  at  Wittenberg  were  Ave  and  Margaret  von  Schonfeld 
and  Catharine  von  Bora.  For  Ave  Luther  felt  a  certain  attrac- 
tion, even  love,  but  she,  too,  as  well  as  her  sister,  married,  and 
of  all  the  Nimbschen  runaways,  Catharine,  whose  father  was 
now  dead,  was  left  alone.  She  had  been  taken  into  the  house 
of  the  rich  and  honorable  Reichenbach,  who  at  times  held  the 
office  of  burgomaster  at  Wittenberg.  Here  the  girl  lived  about 
two  years,  during  which  time  she  learned  housekeeping,  and 
a  marvellously  apt  pupil  she  was,  to  judge  by  her  later  manage. 

What  a  contrast  was  Wittenberg  to  Nimbschen !  A  good 
deal  of  the  world  could  be  seen  in  this  little  town,  with  its 
students  from  all  parts  of  Germany  and  from  foreign  lands, 
too.  Here  Catharine  learned  to  know  many  a  great  man,  Lucas 
Cranach,  the  artist,  and  Philip  Melanchthon,  the  preceptor  of 
the  fatherland.  In  October,  1523,  she  was  presented  to  King 
Christian  II  of  Denmark,  on  his  visit  to  Wittenberg,  and  was 
given  a  gold  ring  by  the  lavish  monarch.  In  all  her  new  ex- 
periences the  girl's  piety  and  modesty,  or  perhaps  something 
in  her  looks,  won  her  the  nickname^of  St.  Catharine  of 

Then  she  had  an  unhappy  love-affair.  Jerome  Baumgartner, 
a  promising  youth  who  had  graduated  from  the  university  in 
1521,  in  the  autumn  of  1523  made  a  long  visit  to  Melanchthon. 
When  he  returned  to  his  native  Nuremberg  there  was  an  un- 
derstanding, though  not  a  formal  engagement,  that  he  should 
come  back  and  marry  Katie.  The  young  man,  though  his  later 
career  was  highly  honorable,  was  unable  in  this  case  to  fulfil 
his  intentions,  and  his  failure  to  return  was  so  taken  to  heart 
by  the  poor  girl  that  she  actually  became  ill  over  it.  About 
a  year  after  Baumgartner 's  departure,  Luther  wrote  him  :  "  If 
you  want  your  Katie  you  had  best  act  quickly  before  she  is 
given  to  some  one  else  who  wants  her.   She  has  not  yet  con- 


quered  her  love  for  you  and  I  would  willingly  see  you  married 
to  each  other."  (October  12,  1524.) 

Jerome,  however,  stayed  away  and  in  January  his  betrothal  to 
a  rich  girl  was  announced. 

The  suitor  who  wanted  Katie  was  a  certain  Dr.  Glatz.  The 
Eeformer  himself  had  no  intention  of  marriage :  "  Not  that  I 
lack  the  feelings  of  a  man,"  as  he  wrote  Spalatin  on  November 
30,  "  for  I  am  neither  wood  nor  stone,  but  my  mind  is  averse 
to  matrimony  because  I  daily  expect  the  death  decreed  to  the 

But  a  little  more  than  a  month  after  this,  Luther  preached 
and  published  his  sermon  on  marriage,  highly  extolling  that 
estate  as  the  one  honored  by  all  the  patriarchs  and  prophets, 
and  pointing  out  the  duties  both  of  those  who  wished  to  marry 
and  of  husbands  and  wives.  A  little  later  he  issued  a  regular 
manifesto  in  the  form  of  an  open  letter  to  a  friend  who  was 
considering  wedlock.  One  can  easily  see  that  the  arguments 
here  given  apply  equally  well  to  the  writer's  position :  — 


Wittbnberg,  March  27,  1525. 

God's  grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Honored  Sir !  I  am  moved  by 
good  friends  and  by  the  esteem  I  bear  you  to  write  you  this  epistle  on 
the  estate  of  matrimony,  as  I  have  noticed  you  would  like  to  marry, 
or  rather  are  forced  to  do  so  by  God  himself,  who  gave  you  a  nature 
requiring  it. 

I  do  not  think  you  should  be  hindered  by  the  rule  of  the  Order  or 
by  a  vow,  for  no  vow  can  bind  or  be  valid  except  under  two  condi- 
tions. First,  a  vow  must  be  possible  of  performance,  for  who  would 
vow  an  impossible  thing,  or  who  would  demand  it  ?  .  .  .  Now  chastity 
is  not  in  our  power,  as  little  as  are  God's  other  wonders  and  graces, 
but  we  are  made  for  marriage  as  the  Scripture  says :  It  is  not  good 
for  man  to  be  alone :  I  will  make  an  help  meet  for  him. 

Who,  therefore,  considers  himself  a  man,  should  hear  what  God 
decrees  for  him.  .  .  .  This  is  the  Word  of  God,  through  whose  power 
seed  is  created  in  man's  body  and  the  burning  desire  for  the  woman 
kindled  and  kept  alight  which  cannot  be  restrained  by  vows  nor 
laws.  .  .  . 

Secondly,  that  a  vow  may  be  valid  it  must  not  be  against  God  and 


the  Christian  faith,  and  everything  is  against  that  which  relies  on 
works  and  not  on  God's  grace.  .  .  . 

It  would  be  a  fine,  noble  example  if  you  married,  that  would  help 
many  feeble  ones  and  give  them  more  scope,  so  that  they  might  escape 
the  dangers  of  the  flesh.  What  harm  is  it  if  people  say:  "So  the 
Lichtenberg  professor  has  taken  a  wife,  has  he  ?  "  Is  it  not  a  great 
glory  that  you  should  thereby  become  an  example  to  others  to  do  the 
same  ?  Christ  was  an  example  to  us  all  how  to  bear  reproach  for  con- 
science' sake.  Do  I  say  reproach  ?  Only  fools  and  fanatics  think  mar- 
riage a  reproach,  men  who  do  not  mind  fornication  but  forbid  what 
God  has  commanded.  If  it  is  a  shame  to  take  a  wife,  why  is  it  not  a 
shame  to  eat  and  drink,  for  we  have  equal  need  of  both  and  God  wills 
both?  .  .  . 

Friend,  let  us  not  fly  higher  nor  try  to  be  better  than  Abraham, 
David,  Isaiah,  Peter,  Paul,  and  all  the  patriarchs,  prophets,  and  apos- 
tles, as  well  as  many  holy  martyrs  and  bishops,  who  knew  that  God 
had  made  them  men  and  were  not  ashamed  to  be  and  to  be  thought  so 
and  therefore  considered  that  they  should  not  remain  alone.  .  .  . 

Luther  was  evidently  intending  to  marry.  In  casting  about 
for  an  eligible  wife,  his  first  choice  did  not  fall  upon  Katie  but 
one  of  the  other  nuns.  In  1538  he  spoke  of  this  inclination  in 
rather  a  tasteless  and  rather  a  heartless  way :  — 

Had  I  wished  to  marry  fourteen  years  ago,  I  should  have  chosen 
Ave  von  SchOnfeld,  now  wife  of  Basil  Axt.  I  never  loved  my  wife 
but  suspected  her  of  being  proud  (as  she  is),  but  God  willed  me  to  take 
pity  on  the  poor  abandoned  girl  and  he  has  made  my  marriage  turn 
out  most  happily. 

For  another  girl,  perhaps  Ave  Alemann  of  Magdeburg, 
Luther  also  had  a  certain  liking,  but  this  yielded  to  circum- 
stances and  Katie  became  the  sole  object  of  his  attentions.  When 
he  had  tried  to  marry  her  to  Dr.  Glatz,  Baumgartner's  rival, 
she  absolutely  refused,  saying  that  she  would  take  Amsdorf  or 
Luther  himself  but  Glatz  never.  This  naturally  brought  her  to 
the  Reformer's  attention.  He  speaks  of  his  various  love-affairs 
in  a  jocose  letter  to  his  confidant :  — 



(Wittenberg,)  April  16, 1525. 
I  have  commended  everything  to  friend  Cranach  and  have  asked 
him  to  be  sure  to  send  a  hundred  copies  of  my  letter  to  Reissenbusch. 

You  write  me  about  my  marriage.  Do  not  be  surprised  if  I,  so  fam- 
ous a  lover,  do  not  wed,  though  it  is  really  wonderful  that  I  who  write 
so  much  about  marriage  and  have  so  much  intercourse  with  women 
should  not  turn  into  a  woman,  let  alone  marry  one.  If  you  wish  for  my 
example  you  already  have  it.  For  I  have  had  three  wives  at  once  and 
loved  them  so  hard  that  I  drove  two  away  to  get  other  husbands.  On 
the  third  I  have  a  precarious  hold,  but  she,  too,  may  soon  be  torn  from 
me.  It  is  really  you  who  are  the  timid  lover,  not  daring  to  marry  even 
one.  But  take  care,  lest  I,  the  old  bachelor,  should  get  ahead  of  lusty 
young  bridegrooms  like  you,  for  God  is  accustomed  to  do  what  we  least 
expect.  I  say  this  seriously  to  encourage  you.  Farewell,  dear  Spalatin. 

Martin  Luther. 

On  the  same  day  on  which  he  wrote  this  letter  Luther  started 
on  his  trip  to  Mansfeld  to  preach  against  the  peasants'  rising. 
His  already  half -formed  purpose  of  taking  the  frank  nun  at  her 
word  was  increased  by  his  father,  whom  he  saw  at  this  time  and 
who  urged  him  to  marry.  His  first  announcement  of  his  inten- 
tion is  in  the  letter  to  Ruhel  of  May  4,  where  he  says  he  will 
take  "his  Katie"  to  wife  "to  spite  the  devil."  The  formal  be- 
trothal followed  soon  after,  and  the  wedding,  hastened  on  by 
malicious  gossip  about  the  pair,  took  place  very  privately  at  the 
Black  Cloister  on  the  evening  of  June  13.  Owing  to  its  sud- 
denness the  customary  festivities  had  to  be  put  off  until  two 
weeks  later,  June  27.  Among  the  invitations  sent  far  and  wide, 
the  following  have  an  especial  interest :  — 


Wittenberg,  June  15,  1525. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.    What  an  outcry  of  Harrow,  my  dear 
sirs,  has  been  caused  by  my  pamphlet  against  the  peasants  !  All  is  now 
forgotten  that  God  has  done  for  the  world  through  me.    Now  lords, 
parsons,  and  peasants  are  all  against  me  and  threaten  my  death. 
1  Spalatin  was  now  here  with  his  dying  master. 


Well,  since  they  are  so  silly  and  foolish,  I  shall  take  care  that  at  my 
end  I  shall  be  found  in  the  state  for  which  God  created  me  with  nothing 
of  my  previous  papal  life  about  me.  I  will  do  my  part  even  if  they  act 
still  more  foolishly  up  to  the  last  farewell. 

So  now,  according  to  the  wish  of  my  dear  father,  I  have  married.  I 
did  it  quickly  lest  those  praters  should  stop  it.  Thursday  week,  June 
27,  it  is  my  intention  to  have  a  little  celebration  and  house-warming, 
to  which  I  beg  that  you  will  come  and  give  your  blessings.  The  land 
is  in  such  a  state  that  I  hardly  dare  ask  you  to  undertake  the  journey; 
however,  if  you  can  do  so,  pray  come,  along  with  my  dear  father  and 
mother,  for  it  would  be  a  special  pleasure  to  me.  Bring  any  friends. 
If  possible  let  me  know  beforehand,  though  I  do' not  ask  this  if  incon- 

I  would  have  written  my  gracious  lords  Counts  Gebhard  and  Albert 

of  Mansf  eld,  but  did  not  risk  it,  knowing  that  their  Graces  have  other 

things  to  attend  to.  Please  let  me  know  if  you  think  I  ought  to  invite 

them.  God  bless  you.  Amen. 

Martin  Luther. 


Wittenberg,  June  16,  1525. 

Grace  and  peace.  Dear  Spalatin,  I  have  stopped  the  mouths  of  my 
calumniators  with  Catharine  von  Bora.  If  we  have  a  banquet  to  cele- 
brate the  wedding  we  wish  you  not  only  to  be  present  but  to  help  us 
in  case  we  need  game.  Meantime  give  us  your  blessing  and  pray  for  us. 

I  have  made  myself  so  cheap  and  despised  by  this  marriage  that  I 
expect  the  angels  laugh  and  the  devils  weep  thereat.  The  world  and 
its  wise  men  have  not  yet  seen  how  pious  and  sacred  is  marriage,  but 
they  consider  it  impious  and  devilish  in  me.  It  pleases  me,  however,  to 
have  my  marriage  condemned  by  those  who  are  ignorant  of  God.  Fare- 
well and  pray  for  me. 

Martin  Luther. 

To  Katie's  old  acquaintance  and  rescuer  he  wrote,  June  21 : 

God  has  suddenly  and  unexpectedly  caught  me  in  the  bond  of 
holy  matrimony.  I  intend  to  celebrate  with  a  wedding  breakfast  on 
Thursday.  That  my  parents  and  all  good  friends  may  be  merry,  my 
Lord  Catharine  and  I  kindly  beg  you  to  send  us,  at  my  cost  and  as 
quickly  as  possible,  a  barrel  of  the  best  Torgau  beer. 

To  Amsdorf  the  bridegroom  confides  that  "  I  married  to  grat- 


ify  my  father,  who  asked  me  to  marry  and  leave  him  descend- 
ants. ...  I  was  not  carried  away  by  passion,  for  I  do  not  love 
my  wife  that  way,  but  esteem  her  as  a  friend.  (Non  amo  sed 

The  proudest  of  the  many  guests  on  the  great  day  were 
assuredly  old  Hans  and  Margaret  Luther.  Among  the  wedding 
presents  the  most  prized  came  from  the  town,  the  university, 
the  Elector,  and  Cranach.  Ruhel  brought  a  surprise  in  the  way 
of  twenty  gulden  from  Albert  of  Mayence,  who  was  thinking  of 
becoming  Lutheran  in  order  to  turn  his  electorate  into  a  tem- 
poral fief  as  his  cousin  Albert  had  done  with  Prussia.  The 
bridegroom  wanted  to  return  this  gift,  but  the  thrifty  bride 
managed  to  keep  it. 

At  this  time  Martin  and  Katie  sat  for  their  pictures  to  the 
celebrated  Lucas  Cranach.  The  bridegroom  is  forty-two,  well 
built  and  very  pale.  His  face  is  at  once  good-humored  and 
strong.  And  yet  who  can  be  satisfied  with  this  picture  ?  Diirer's 
criticism  that  the  Wittenberg  artist  could  depict  the  features 
but  not  the  soul  is  extremely  just. 

The  portrait  of  Katie  does  not  bear  out  the  conjecture  of 
Erasmus  that  the  monk  had  been  led  astray  by  a  wonderfully 
charming  girl  (mire  venusta).  She  was  of  a  type  not  uncommon 
among  Germans,  in  whose  features  shrewdness,  good  sense,  and 
kindliness  often  give  a  pleasant  expression  to  homely  persons 
—  though  even  this  can  hardly  be  seen  in  Cranach's  picture. 
Her  scant  reddish  hair  is  combed  back  over  a  high  forehead ; 
the  brows  over  her  dark  blue  eyes  slant  up  from  a  rather  flat 
nose  ;  her  ears  and  cheek-bones  are  prominent. 

Katie  was  sometimes  reproached  with  pride  and  avarice.  But 
that  an  orphan,  without  friends,  money,  or  beauty  should  have 
any  pride  left  is  rather  a  subject  for  praise  than  blame,  and 
what  is  sometimes  called  her  greed  of  money  was  only  the  nec- 
essary parsimony  of  a  housewife  in  narrow  circumstances  whose 
husband  was  uncommonly  generous.  Without  marked  spiritu- 
ality, she  was  a  Martha  busied  with  many  things  rather  than  a 
Mary  sitting  in  devotion  at  her  master's  feet.  If  there  was  little 
passion  and  no  romance  in  the  courtship,  there  was  deep  devo- 
tion and  friendship  in  the  twenty  years  following  marriage.  Of 


his  own  thoughts,  and  his  wife's  affection  during  their  first  year 
together,  the  Reformer  once  spoke  thus :  — 

In  the  first  year  of  marriage  one  has  strange  thoughts.  At  table  he 
thinks  :  "  Formerly  I  was  alone,  now  I  am  with  some  one.  In  bed 
when  he  wakes,  he  sees  beside  him  a  pair  of  pigtails  which  he  did  not 
see  before.  The  first  year  after  our  marriage  Katie  sat  beside  me  when 
I  studied,  and  once,  when  she  could  think  of  nothing  else  to  say,  asked 
me :  '  Doctor,  is  the  Grand  Master  of  Prussia  the  Margrave's 
brother  ?  ' "  l 

A  still  more  intimate  view  of  the  relations  of  man  and  wife 
is  given  in  the  next  letter  to  Spalatin.  Luther  lived  in  a  time 
when  it  was  considered  not  at  all  indelicate  to  speak  of  what 
few  refined  men,  not  to  say  pious  preachers,  would  mention  in 
these  days.  Spalatin  had  now  retired  from  his  position  at  court, 
married,  and  taken  the  incumbency  of  the  first  church  at  Alten- 
burg.  Here  he  remained  the  trusted  counsellor  of  Frederic's 
successor,  John  the  Steadfast.  Though  the  new  elector  was  an 
open  convert  to  the  Evangelic  faith,  as  his  brother  had  not 
been,  nevertheless  there  was  a  party  at  court  so  hostile  to  Luther, 
whom  they  regarded  as  the  real  author  of  the  peasants'  rising, 
that  when  Spalatin  invited  the  Wittenberg  professor  to  attend 
his  wedding,  the  latter  felt  unable  to  do  it. 


Wittenberg,  December  6,  1525. 
I  wish  you  grace  and  peace  in  the  Lord,  and  also  joy  with  your 
sweetest  little  wife,  also  in  the  Lord.  Your  marriage  is  as  pleasing  to 
me  as  it  is  displeasing  to  those  priests  of  Baal.2  Indeed  God  has  given 
me  no  greater  happiness,  except  the  Gospel,  than  to  see  you  married, 
though  this,  too,  is  a  gift  of  the  Gospel,  and  no  small  fruit  of  our 
Evangelic  teaching.  Why  I  am  absent,  and  wherefore  I  could  not  come 
to  your  most  pleasing  wedding,  Brisger  8  will  tell  you.  All  things  are 
changed  under  the  new  elector,  who  right  nobly  confesses  the  Evan- 
gelic faith.  I  am  less  safe  on  the  road  than  I  was  under  an  elector  who 
dissimulated  his  faith,  but  now  where  one  hopes  for  citadels  of  refuge 

1  The  Grand  Master  was  the  Margrave  ! 

2  The  canons  of  Altenburg,  with  whom  Luther  had  had  a  hard  fight. 

8  The  brother  who  had  hitherto  lived  with  Luther ;  he  was  the  bearer  of  this 
letter  to  Altenburg1,  where  he  was  soon  to  become  pastor. 


one  is  forced  to  fear  dens  of  robbers  and  traitors.  I  wish  you  great 
happiness  and  children,  with  Christ's  blessing.  Believe  me,  my  mind 
exults  in  your  marriage  no  less  than  yours  did  in  mine.  Poor  as  I  am 
I  would  have  sent  you  that  Portuguese  gold-piece x  which  you  gave 
my  wife,  did  I  not  fear  that  it  would  offend  you.  So  I  am  sending  you 
what  is  left  over  from  my  wedding,  not  knowing  whether  it  will  also 
be  left  over  from  yours  or  not.  .  .  .  Greet  your  wife  kindly  from  me. 
When  you  have  your  Catharine  in  bed,  sweetly  embracing  and  kissing 
her,  think :  Lo  this  being,  the  best  little  creation  of  God,  has  been  given 
me  by  Christ,  to  whom  be  glory  and  honor.  I  will  guess  the  day  on 
which  you  will  receive  this  letter  and  that  night  my  wife  and  I  will 
particularly  think  of  you.2  My  rib  and  I  send  greetings  to  you  and 
your  rib.  Grace  be  with  you.  Amen. 


Martin  Luther. 

Luther's  marriage  excited  the  interest  of  all  Europe.  Henry 
VIII  of  England  and  many  other  enemies  taunted  him  with  it 
as  if  it  were  a  crime.  Erasmus  sneered  that  what  he  had  taken 
to  be  a  tragedy  had  turned  out  a  comedy.  Even  Melanchthon 
disliked  the  step.  To  his  best  pupil,  Camerarius,  he  wrote  a 
letter  on  June  16  in  Greek,  at  that  time  almost  a  cipher, 
saying :  — 

On  June  13  Luther  unexpectedly  married  Mistress  von  Bora,  hav- 
ing announced  his  intention  to  none  of  his  friends,  but  in  the  evening 
only  inviting  Bugenhagen,  Cranach,  and  Apel  to  supper,  after  which  he 
completed  the  usual  ceremonies.  You  may  perhaps  be  surprised  that 
at  this  unhappy  time,  when  all  good  gentlemen  are  suffering,  Luther 
does  not  sympathize  with  them,  but,  as  it  seems,  prefers  a  life  of  pleas- 
ure and  to  lower  his  dignity,  though  Germany  has  now  the  greatest 
need  of  his  wisdom  and  strength.  I  think  it  came  about  in  this  way. 
The  man  is  very  facile  and  the  nuns  tried  every  plan  to  inveigle  him. 
Perhaps  the  much  intercourse  with  the  nuns  softened  and  inflamed  him, 
noble  and  magnanimous  as  he  is.  ...  I  hope  this  manner  of  life  will 
make  him  more  reverend  and  especially  that  he  will  cast  away  the 
scurrility  with  which  we  have  of  ten,  reproached  him. 

The  marriage  did  indeed  turn  out  happily.  After  his  hard 
experiences  in  the  monastery,  Luther's  whole  nature  blossomed 

1  Portugaliensis,  a  coin  worth  about  seven  dollars. 

2  Ea  nocte  simili  opere  meam  [uxorem]  amabo  in  tui  memoriam,  et  tibi  par  pari 


out  in  response  to  the  warm  sun  of  domestic  life.  A  true  instinct 
for  the  best  side  of  the  man  has  made  artists  love  to  portray  him 
surrounded  by  wife  and  children. 

Katie  was  a  woman  of  enormous  energy  —  the  morning  star 
of  Wittenberg  as  her  husband  called  her  with  reference  to  her 
early  rising.  Her  superintendence  of  a  large  household  and 
growing  estate  was  masterly.  She  faithfully  cared  for  her  hus- 
band on  the  numerous  occasions  when  he  was  ill,  and  of  course 
much  of  her  time  was  taken  up  with  the  children  whom  she 
nursed  and  tended  in  the  unabashed  publicity  of  her  crowded 
home.  She  took  a  lively  interest  in  her  husband's  affairs  and 
was  confided  in  by  him.  Her  piety  is  more  a  matter  of  infer- 
ence than  record ;  Martin  probably  appealed  to  her  weaker  side 
when  he  offered  her  a  large  sum  to  read  the  Bible  through. 
That  her  studies  in  this  book  were  successful  may  be  inferred 
from  her  husband's  remark  that  "  Katie  understands  the  Bible 
better  than  any  papists  did  twenty  years  ago."  Her  picture,  like 
that  of  her  husband,  is  drawn  to  the  life  in  the  table-talk. 
Among  many  sayings  taken  down  during  the  last  fifteen  years 
of  Luther's  life  (1531-1546)  the  following  give  a  charming 
picture  of  his  conjugal  felicity:  — 

I  would  not  change  my  Katie  for  France  and  Venice,  because  God 
has  given  her  to  me,  and  other  women  have  much  worse  faults,  and 
she  is  true  to  me  and  a  good  mother  to  my  children.  If  a  husband 
always  kept  such  things  in  mind  he  would  easily  conquer  the  tempta- 
tion to  discord  which  Satan  sows  between  married  people. 

The  greatest  happiness  is  to  have  a  wife  to  whom  you  can  trust  your 
business  and  who  is  a  good  mofher  to  your  children.  Katie,  you  have 
a  husband  who  loves  you  ;  many  an  empress  is  not  so  well  off. 

I  am  rich,  God  has  given  me  my  nun  and  three  children :  what 
care  I  if  I  am  in  debt,  Katie  pays  the  bills. 

Luther  loved  to  poke  good-natured  fun  at  his  wife,  but  she 
was  usually  able  to  hold  her  own :  — 

Luther :  We  shall  yet  see  the  day  when  a  man  will  take  several 

Katie :  The  devil  thinks  so. 

Luther :  The  reason,  dear  Katie,  is  that  a  woman  can  have  only 
one  child  a  year,  whereas  a  man  can  beget  several. 


Katie :  Paul  says,  "  Let  each  man  have  his  own  wife." 

Luther :  Aye,  his  own  wife,  but  not  only  one ;  that  is  not  in  Paul. 
Thus  the  doctor  joked  a  long  time  until  Katie  said  :  "  Before  I  would 
stand  that  I  would  go  back  to  the  convent  and  leave  you  and  your 

Something  struck  Katie  in  the  side  and  she  cried  out,  "Ave  Maria/  " 
The  doctor  said  :  "  Why  don't  you  finish  your  prayer  ?  Would  it  not 
be  a  comfort  to  say  *  Jesus  Christ '  too  ?  " 

Speaking  jocosely  of  Katie's  loquacity  he  said  :  "  Will  you  not  pre- 
face your  long  sermons  with  a  prayer  ?  If  you  do,  your  prayer  will 
doubtless  be  long  enough  to  prevent  your  preaching  at  all." 

While  he  was  talking  in  an  inspired  way  during  dinner,  his  wife 
said  :  "  Why  do  you  keep  talking  all  the  time  instead  of  eating  ?  "  He 
replied :  "  I  must  again  wish  that  women  would  pray  before  they 
preach.  Say  the  Lord's  prayer  before  you  speak." 

"  Women's  sermons  only  make  one  tired.  They  are  so  tedious  that 
one  forgets  what  they  are  saying  before  they  finish."  By  this  name  he 
called  the  long  speeches  of  his  wife  with  which  she  was  always  inter- 
rupting his  best  sayings. 

November  4  (1538)  a  learned  Englishman  who  did  not  know  Ger- 
man came  to  table.  Luther  said  :  "  I  will  let  my  wife  be  your  teacher. 
She  knows  the  tongue  so  thoroughly  that  she  completely  beats  me.  But 
eloquence  is  not  to  be  praised  in  women ;  it  becomes  them  better  to 
stammer  and  lisp." 

While  Luther  gladly  devolved  upon  Katie  the  care  of  the 
household  and  property — tasks  for  which  he  had  neither  time, 
aptitude,  nor  inclination  —  he  had  no  idea  of  letting  himself  be 
ruled  by  her — indulgence  to  wives  he  once  described  as  "the 
vice  of  the  age."  At  other  times  he  said:  — 

My  wife  can  persuade  me  anything  she  pleases,  for  she  has  the  gov- 
ernment of  the  house  in  her  hands  alone.  I  willingly  yield  the  direction 
of  domestic  affairs,  but  wish  my  rights  to  be  respected.  Women's  rule 
never  did  any  good. 

The  inferior  ought  not  to  glory  over  the  superior,  but  the  superior 
over  the  inferior.  Katie  can  rule  the  servants  but  not  me.  David  gloried 
in  his  own  righteousness  before  men,  not  before  God. 

George  Karg  has  taken  a  rich  wife  and  sold  his  freedom.  I  am  luck- 
ier, for  when  Katie  gets  saucy  she  gets  nothing  but  a  box  on  the  ear. 

This  is  the  only  time  corporal  chastisement  of  the  wife  is  ever 


mentioned  in  respect  to  Katie,  though  the  practice  was  not 
unknown  to  the  best  society  of  the  day.  In  spite  of  a  little  blus- 
tering it  is  probable  that  Luther  gave  in  as  often  as  not :  — 

As  we  were  sitting  in  the  garden,  Jonas  remarked  that  the  women 
were  becoming  our  masters,  to  which  the  town-councillor  of  Torgau 
added  that  it  was  indeed,  alas  !  true.  Luther  said  :  "  But  we  have  to 
give  in,  otherwise  we  would  have  no  peace." 

A  priest  came  to  Luther  complaining  of  misery  and  want.  Melanch- 
thon,  who  was  present,  said :  "  You  have  vowed  poverty,  obedience, 
and  chastity,  now  practise  them  "  ;  and  Luther  added :  u  I,  too,  have 
to  be  obedient  to  my  wife  and  all  kinds  of  desperate  fools  and  knaves 
and  ingrates." 

"  I  must  have  patience  with  the  Pope,  ranters,  insolent  nobles,  my 
household  and  Katie  von  Bora,  so  that  my  whole  life  is  nothing  else 
but  mere  patience." 

In  general  Katie  seems  to  have  enjoyed  good  health.  In  the 
winter  of  1539-40,  however,  she  had  a  terrible  illness  resulting 
from  a  miscarriage.  For  weeks  she  was  prostrate.  When  the 
crisis  was  past  her  energy  returned  faster  than  her  strength,  and 
one  of  the  most  realistic  accounts  of  her  tells  how  she  crawled 
around  the  house  with  the  aid  of  her  hands  before  she  was  able 
to  walk  upright.  Her  excellent  constitution  stood  her  in  good 
stead,  however,  and  she  recovered  rapidly  and  thoroughly.  Her 
husband's  piety  attributed  this  to  the  prayers  offered  for  her. 


PRIVATE  LIFE.  1522-31 

One  of  Luther's  oldest  and  best  friends  was  his  vicar,  John 
von  Staupitz.  Though  it  is  probable  that  the  two  never  agreed 
as  closely  as  is  usually  thought,  there  can  be  no  doubt  of  the 
great  debt  of  the  younger  man  to  the  elder  and  of  the  sorrow 
he  felt  at  their  gradual  estrangement,  and  at  the  death  of  hi3 
"father."  Luther  was  sensible  of  the  coming  division  as  early 
as  the  Leipsic  debate ;  not  long  after  this  (October  3,  1519), 
he  wrote :  — 

I  have  been  most  sad  for  you  to-day  as  a  weaned  child  for  its 
mother.  .  .  .  Last  night  I  dreamed  that  you  were  leaving  me  while  I 
wept  bitterly,  but  you  waved  to  me  and  bade  me  cease  weeping,  for 
you  would  come  back  to  me. 

But  the  elder  man  did  not  come  back.  Notwithstanding  great 
spiritual  insight  and  devotion,  his  character  lacked  something 
of  the  firmness  required  by  the  times.  His  attempt  to  avoid 
taking  sides  by  entering  the  Benedictine  order,  his  public  sub- 
mission to  the  Pope,  and  the  solemn  letter  Luther  wrote  him  on 
that  occasion,  just  before  the  Diet  of  Worms,  on  the  duty  of 
standing  by  Christ  in  the  hour  of  danger,  have  already  been 

Staupitz  was  more  than  ever  alienated  from  the  new  teaching 
by  the  innovations  of  the  Wittenberg  mob  while  Martin  was  at 
the  Wartburg.  Three  months  after  his  return,  June  27,  1522, 
the  younger  man  wrote  an  earnest  defence  of  his  doctrine  to 
the  elder :  "  I  pray  you  by  the  bowels  of  Christ  not  to  believe 
our  detractors ;  all  that  I  have  done  is  to  publish  the  pure 
Word  without  tumult :  it  is  not  our  fault  if  good  and  bad  alike 
take  it  up." 

Staupitz  did  not  answer  this  letter,  but  a  year  later,  Septem- 
ber 17,  1523,  the  Wittenberger  wrote  him  to  ask  a  favor  for  a 
1  Letter  of  February  9,  1521,  p.  107  f. 


fugitive  monk.  "  Reverend  Father  in  Christ,"  he  remonstrated, 
"  your  silence  is  most  unjust,  and  you  know  what  we  are  obliged 
to  think  of  it.  But  even  if  you  are  no  longer  pleased  with  me, 
it  is  not  fitting  that  I  should  forget  you,  who  first  made  the 
light  of  the  gospel  shine  in  my  heart." 

The  answer  to  this,  dated  Salzburg  April  1, 1524,  is  a  remark- 
able tribute  to  the  personality  of  the  younger  man.  "  My  love  to 
you,"  protests  the  writer,  "  is  most  constant,  passing  the  love 
of  women,  always  unbroken.  .  .  .  But  as  I  do  not  grasp  all 
your  ideas,  I  keep  silence  about  them.  ...  It  seems  to  me 
that  you  condemn  many  things  which  are  merely  indifferent 
.  .  .  but  we  owe  much  to  you,  Martin,  for  having  led  us  back 
from  the  husks  which  the  swine  did  eat  to  the  pastures  of  life 
and  the  words  of  salvation."  The  letter  closes  with  a  request 
that  the  bearer  of  it  be  given  the  degree  of  master  at  Witten- 
berg, which  was  promptly  complied  with.  No  other  epistles 
were  exchanged  between  the  two  friends,  the  elder  of  whom 
died  of  a  stroke  of  apoplexy  on  December  28  of  this  same  year. 
This  disease  was  commonly  regarded  as  a  special  visitation  from 
Heaven,  and  Luther  once  opined  that  God  had  thus  punished 
the  vicar  for  entering  the  Benedictine  order,  but  added  that  he 
was  a  noble-minded  man. 

The  work  of  teaching  in  the  university,  interrupted  by  the 
momentous  events  of  1521,  was  taken  up  again  in  1522,  and 
continued,  with  a  few  short  breaks,  for  the  rest  of  the  pro- 
fessor's life.  During  his  absence  Melanchthon  had  consented, 
rather  against  his  will,  to  lecture  on  the  Bible,  and  his  work 
proved  such  a  success  that  his  friend  begged  him  to  continue 
it.  Luther  met  his  colleague's  plea  that  he  was  paid  to  teach 
Greek  by  writing  to  the  Elector  Frederic,  saying :  — 

Your  Grace  doubtless  knows  that  there  are  fine  youths  here, 
hungry  for  the  wholesome  Word,  coming  from  abroad  and  enduring 
poverty  to  study.  .  .  .  Now  I  have  proposed  that  Melanchthon  lecture 
on  the  Bible,  for  which  he  is  more  richly  endowed  by  God's  grace 
than  am  I.  .  .  .  But  he  alleges  that  he  is  appointed  to  teach  Greek. 
.  .  .  Wherefore  I  beg  your  Grace  to  see  fit  to  pay  him  his  salary  for 
lecturing  on  the  Bible,  as  there  are  plenty  of  young  men  who  can 
teach  Greek. 


Frederic's  answer,  if  he  wrote  any,  is  not  extant :  he  was 
soon  to  be  too  much  preoccupied  with  the  rising  of  the  rustics 
to  be  able  to  attend  to  his  once  cherished  seat  of  learning.  This 
civil  war  had  a  disastrous  effect  on  the  university :  not  only  did 
funds  run  very  short,  but  the  number  of  students  fell  from 
five  or  six  hundred  to  forty  in  the  summer  semester  of  1525. 
Seriously  alarmed  at  this  state  of  affairs,  Luther  wrote,  shortly 
after  the  death  of  Frederic,  to  his  successor  John,  and  to  the 
latter's  son :  — 


,  Wittenberg,  May  20,  1525. 

I  have  previously  written  my  gracious  Lord,  your  Grace's  father, 
about  putting  the  university  in  order  and  appointing  some  one  to  take 
charge  of  it.  It  is  true  that  your  Grace  is  very  busy  about  other 
things,  but  here,  too,  delay  is  dangerous,  as  the  matter  has  hung  fire 
long  enough  and  become  tangled ;  moreover,  men  whose  places  we 
cannot  easily  fill  have  left  us,  so  that  our  neighbors  are  rejoicing  as  if 
it  were  already  up  with  Wittenberg.  If  we  are  to  have  a  university 
here  at  all  we  must  act  betimes.  It  would  be  a  shame  that  such  a 
university  as  this,  from  which  the  gospel  has  gone  out  over  the  whole 
world,  should  perish.  We  need  men  everywhere  and  must  take  the 
necessary  means  to  train  them.  I  humbly  beg  your  Grace  to  act 
quickly  and  not  be  held  back  by  the  courtiers  who  speak  scornfully  of 
book  learning.  For  your  Grace  knows  that  the  world  cannot  be  ruled 
by  force  alone,  but  that  there  must  be  learned  men  to  help  with  God's 
work  and  keep  a  hold  on  the  people  with  teaching  and  preaching,  for 
if  there  were  no  teachers  or  preachers  the  civil  power  would  not  long 
stand,  not  to  mention  the  fact  that  the  kingdom  of  God  would  entirely 

leave  us.  ... 

Your  Grace's  obedient, 

Martin  Luther. 

These  appeals  were  effective.  Spalatin  was  sent  to  reorganize 
the  university.  The  professors'  salaries  were  raised  — -  Luther's 
from  one  to  two  hundred  gulden  —  from  funds  provided  by  the 
appropriation  of  the  income  of  the  endowed  masses  of  the  Castle 
Church,  which  Frederic  had  been  too  conservative  to  touch. 
The  curriculum,  too,  was  reformed,  according  to  the  ideas  ex- 
pressed in  the  Address  to  the  German  Nobility.  A  professor  of 


Hebrew  had  been  secured  from  Lou  vain  in  1519,  but  soon 
proved  unsatisfactory,  and  his  place  was  taken  by  another, 
Aurogallus,  who  was  a  great  help  in  the  translation  of  the  Old 
Testament  now  under  way. 

Luther's  own  lectures  on  the  Bible  were  soon  resumed  and 
steadily  continued ;  on  2  Peter,  Jude,  and  Genesis,  1523-1524  ; 
on  Deuteronomy,  1523-1525.  In  his  commentary  on  the  Minor 
Prophets,  1524-1526,  he  perhaps  reached  the  height  of  his  ex- 
egetical  ability.  He  showed  a  real  historical  sense,  expounding 
the  messages  of  the  prophets  with  reference  to  the  circumstances 
of  their  own  days.  One  can  see  that  his  translation  of  the  Bible 
into  German  is  always  in  his  mind,  for  he  is  continually  search- 
ing for  apt  German  words  and  phrases.  These  lectures,  com- 
pared even  with  those  on  Romans  and  Galatians,  show  that  he 
had  almost  entirely  emancipated  himself  from  the  old  commen- 
taries of  Lyra  and  the  scholastics.  It  is  noticeable  that  he  took 
Jonah,  whale  and  all,  literally.  That  even  here,  however,  his 
historical  sense  and  his  humor  were  not  dormant  may  be  gath- 
ered from  the  remark,  made  at  another  time,  that  if  Jonah 
were  not  in  the  Bible  he  would  laugh  at  it. 

He  next  took  up  Ecclesiastes,  which  he  called  u  the  hardest 
of  all  books."  He  noticed  the  peculiarities  of  the  vocabulary 
and  explained  them  by  saying :  "  Solomon  tried  to  be  more 
elegant  than  his  father  David."  Simultaneously  he  was  lectur- 
ing on  1  John,  which  he  called  "  a  noble  epistle,  having  John's 
style  and  manner,  able  to  raise  up  afflicted  hearts,  so  fairly  and 
sweetly  does  it  depict  Christ  for  us."  Courses  on  Titus,  Phile- 
mon, and  Isaiah  were  given  in  the  years  1527-1529. 

Luther's  work  for  the  education  of  his  people  did  not  stop 
with  his  own  university.  He  perpetually  and  strenuously  urged 
the  extension  and  reformation  of  the  schools.  During  the  first 
quarter  of  the  sixteenth  century  learning  had  fallen  into  con- 
tempt for  a  variety  of  causes.  The  principal  reason  was  that 
the  learning  itself  was  contemptible ;  the  age  had  long  out- 
grown the  lore  of  the  schools  which  passed  for  erudition ;  the 
satire  levelled  against  the  sophistry  of  the  monks  by  the  Letters 
of  the  Obscure  Men,  had  brought  into  disrepute  all  pretensions 
to   any   education   whatever.   Then   came   Carlstadt  and   the 


mystics,  who  taught  that  as  God  had  revealed  to  babes  and 
sucklings  what  he  had  concealed  from  the  wise  and  prudent,  it 
was  better  to  preserve  innocence  and  ignorance  together.  Lastly 
the  time  was,  like  our  own,  one  of  marked  materialistic  tend- 
ency, fostered  by  the  rapid  expansion  of  commerce  and  in- 

Luther  stemmed  the  ebbing  tide.  Early  in  1524  he  produced 
a  Letter  to  the  Aldermen  and  Cities  of  Germany  on  the  Erec- 
tion and  Maintenance  of  Christian  Schools.  Ranke  says :  "  This 
work  has  the  same  significance  for  the  development  of  learning 
as  the  Address  to  the  German  Nobility  for  the  temporal  estate 
in  general."  The  book  had  a  great  success,  and,  followed  up  as 
it  was  by  unremitting  efforts  in  the  same  direction,  it  undoubt- 
edly had  an  incalculable  effect  in  popularizing  and  raising  the 
standard  of  education  in  Germany. 

"  Now  we  learn,"  says  the  author,  "  that  throughout  all  Germany 
the  schools  are  declining,  the  universities  becoming  weak,  and  the 
cloisters  are  ruined.  Such  grass  dries  up,  and  the  flowers  fall,  as 
Isaiah  says,  when  God  does  not  move  upon  them  by  his  Word.  .  .  . 
For  the  carnal  multitude  sees  that  they  cannot  turn  their  sons  and 
daughters  out  of  house  and  home  to  live  in  cloisters  and  therefore  they 
will  not  let  them  study  any  more.  'For/  say  they,  'why  should  any 
one  study  who  is  not  going  to  be  a  priest,  monk,  or  nun  ?  Rather  let 
them  learn  a  trade  to  support  themselves.'  "... 

Now  I  beg  all  my  dear  friends  not  to  think  of  this  matter  so  con- 
temptuously as  many  do  who  do  not  see  what  the  prince  of  this 
world  intends.  It  is  an  earnest  and  great  matter,  deeply  concerning 
Christ  and  all  the  world,  that  we  should  help  and  counsel  the  young 

The  principal  reason  for  education  is,  of  course,  in  the  writ- 
er's opinion,  that  men  may  read  the  Word  of  God.  But  other 
reasons  are  adduced,  the  example  of  Rome  being  cited,  "  for 
the  Romans  brought  up  their  children  so  that  by  the  time  they 
were  fifteen,  eighteen,  or  twenty  they  knew  marvellously  well 
Latin,  Greek,  and  all  the  liberal  arts,  so  that  they  were  straight- 
way fitted  for  war  or  government,  and  were  brilliant,  reasoning, 
able  persons,  polished  in  all  the  arts  and  sciences."  Men  must  be 
trained  to  govern,  for  ignorant  governors  are  as  bad  as  wolves. 


The  chief  subjects  taught  should  be  Latin,  Greek,  and  He- 
brew, the  last  two  for  the  sake  of  reading  the  Bible  in  the  orig- 
inal, for  the  mistakes  of  all  the  fathers  were  due  to  their  ignor- 
ance of  these  tongues.  The  people  are  congratulated  on  the 
introduction  of  humaner  methods  of  instilling  knowledge :  — 

Now  by  God's  grace  it  has  come  to  pass  that  children  may  learn 
with  pleasure,  be  it  a  language  or  some  other  art  or  science  or  history. 
Our  schools  are  no  more  the  hell  and  purgatory  in  which  we  were 
martyred  by  declension  and  conjugation,  although  we  learned  nothing 
of  value  with-  all  our  whipping,  trembling,  anguish,  and  crying.  If 
people  now  take  so  much  time  teaching  their  children  to  play  cards  and 
dance,  why  should  they  not  take  an  equal  amount  to  teach  them  to  read 
and  learn  other  things  while  they  are  young,  idle,  and  curious  ?  For 
my  part,  if  I  had  children  they  would  have  to  learn  not  only  the  lan- 
guages and  history  but  also  singing,  music,  and  the  whole  mathematics. 
...  It  is  a  sorrow  to  me  that  I  was  not  taught  to  read  more  poetry 
and  history. 

Children  should  therefore  go  to  school  an  hour  or  two  every 
day,  learning  a  trade  at  home  the  rest  of  the  time.  Girls  should 
be  sent  to  school  as  well  as  boys.  Public  libraries  in  each  town, 
like  those. of  the  monasteries,  but  with  better  books,  are  recom- 

Notwithstanding  his  other  occupations,  Luther  found  time  to 
preach  constantly ;  indeed,  during  the  frequent  and  long  absences 
of  Bugenhagen,  the  parish  priest  of  Wittenberg,  the  Reformer 
regularly  took  his  place  in  the  pulpit.  He  often  took  up  one 
book  of  the  Bible  and  preached  on  it  for  long  periods  together. 
Thus  during  the  years  1524-1527,  he  went  through  Exodus. 
The  following  may  serve  as  a  specimen  of  his  homiletic 
style :  — 

But  the  miracle  of  the  manna  helped  the  children  of  Israel  little, 
for  it  became  common  and  they  did  not  regard  it.  So  the  sun  rising 
daily  on  us,  though  a  great  miracle,  has  become  so  customary  that  we 
think  it  cannot  be  otherwise.  Likewise  we  esteem  it  no  wonder  that 
corn  and  wine  grow  yearly,  yet  by  these  and  other  daily  miracles  — 
for  the  growth  of  corn  from  the  seed  is  as  great  a  miracle  as"  the 
manna  —  our  faith  ought  to  be  strengthened. 

Luther  did  not  confine  himself  to  any  strict  order,  however ; 


he  often  took  other  texts,  and  in  these  cases  his  sermons  per- 
haps show  more  of  his  thought.  For  example,  one  Sunday  in 
1527,  a  terrible  year  of  affliction,  he  preached  on  Matthew  xi, 
28 :  "  Come  unto  me  all  ye  that  are  weary  and  heavy  laden  and 
I  will  give  you  rest." 

Ah,  what  a  rare  invitation  is  this  (he  comments).  Why  does  he 
not  call  the  strong,  rich,  well,  learned,  kings  and  lords  ?  Why  does 
he  want  the  sorrowful  and  laden  ?  Only  because  it  pleases  him  to  do 
so,  and  where  else  can  one  go  with  his  unbelief,  hunger,  poverty, 
shame,  and  trouble  ? 

These  busy  and  generally  happy  years  were  not  entirely  free 
from  ill  health.  There  are  some  indications  that  Luther  suffered 
from  a  malady  of  the  nerves  even  as  a  student  at  Erfurt  and  as 
a  monk.  By  1523  this  took  a  more  pronounced  form,  causing 
ringing  in  the  ears,  f aintness,  depression,  and  irritability.  Indi- 
gestion with  various  complications  had  set  in  at  the  Wartburg, 
and  in  1526  were  discovered  the  first  symptoms  of  the  then 
common  disease  of  the  bladder  and  kidneys,  known  as  the  stone. 
These  complaints  were  not  allowed  as  a  rule  to  interfere  with 
work,  but  in  the  summer  of  1527  a  terrible  attack  of  nervous 
prostration  for  a  time  interrupted  the  almost  unexampled  toil 
of  the  Reformer's  life.  On  July  6,  feeling  unwell,  he  arose  from 
the  table  and  started  to  go  to  the  bedroom  next  the  dining- 
hall,  but  before  he  reached  the  door  he  fainted  and  fell.  Though 
only  two  days  in  bed,  the  patient  suffered  from  weakness  and 
depression  for  months  afterward.  "  Satan  rages  against  me  with 
his  whole  might,"  he  wrote  Agricola  on  August  21,  "  and  the 
Lord  has  put  me  in  his  power  like  another  Job.  The  devil 
tempts  me  with  great  infirmity  of  spirit." 

Before  he  had  recovered,  the  plague  broke  out  at  Witten- 
berg. The  university  moved  to  Jena  and  most  of  the  clergy 
followed.  Luther,  while  admitting  that  in  some  cases  it  was 
justifiable  for  them  to  do  so,  declined  to  imitate  them  himself, 
saying  that  a  good  shepherd  laid  down  his  life  for  his  sheep, 
and  only  the  hireling  fled.  One  of  the  two  who  .stayed  with  him, 
the  young  and  talented  deacon  Rorer,  who  for  several  years 
had  been  a  literary  help  to  the  Reformer,  paid  heavily  for  his 

PRIVATE  LIFE  -  189 

fidelity  in  the  loss  of  his  wife.  Katie  was  in  a  situation  caus- 
ing anxiety,  and  her  baby  Hans  fell  ill.  In  the  midst  of  these 
fightings  without  and  fears  within  he  wrote  as  follows :  — 


(Wittenberg,  November  11  ?  1527.) 

Grace  and  peace  in  the  Lord  Jesus  our  Saviour.  I  thank  you,  dear 
Jonas,  for  your  prayers  and  occasional  letters.  I  suppose  my  letter  of 
day  before  yesterday  reached  you.  I  have  not  yet  read  Erasmus  or 
the  sacramentarians  except  about  three  quarters  of  Zwingli's  book. 
Judases  as  they  are  they  do  well  to  stamp  on  my  wretched  self,  making 
me  feel  as  did  Christ  when  he  said :  "  He  persecuted  the  poor  and 
needy  man,  that  he  might  even  slay  the  broken  in  heart."  I  bear  God's 
wrath  because  I  have  sinned  against  him.  Pope,  emperor,  princes, 
bishops,  and  the  whole  world  hate  and  persecute  me,  nor  is  this  enough, 
but  my  brothers,  too,  must  add  to  my  sorrows,  and  my  sins  and  death 
and  Satan  with  his  angels  rage  without  ceasing.  What  could  save  and 
console  me  if  even  Christ  should  desert  me  on  whose  account  they  all 
hate  me?  But  he  will  not  leave  the  poor  sinner  at  the  end,  though  I 
believe  that  I  am  the  least  of  all  men.  Would  that  Erasmus  and  the 
sacramentarians  might  feel  the  anguish  of  my  heart  for  a  quarter  of 
an  hour ;  I  can  safely  say  that  they  would  be  converted  and  saved 
thereby.  .  .  . 

I  am  anxious  about  the  delivery  of  my  wife,  so  much  has  the  ex- 
ample of  Rorer's  wife  terrified  me.  .  .  .  My  little  Hans  cannot  send 
his  greetings  to  you  on  account  of  illness,  but  he  looks  for  your  prayers 
for  him.  It  is  twelve  days  since  he  has  eaten  any  solid  food,  but  now 
he  begins  to  eat  a  little.  It  is  wonderful  to  see  how  the  baby  tries  to 
be  strong  and  happy  as  usual,  but  cannot  because  he  is  so  weak. 

Margaret  Moch  was  operated  on  yesterday,  and  having  thus  at  last 
thrown  off  the  plague  begins  to  convalesce.  She  is  lodged  in  our  usual 
winter  room  ;  we  live  in  the  lecture  hall ;  little  Hans  has  my  bedroom 
and  Schurf 's  wife  his  room.  We  hope  the  pestilence  is  passing.  Good- 
bye, with  a  kiss  to  your  little  daughter  and  warm  greetings  to  her 
mother.  .  .  . 

I  am  sorry  Rome  was  sacked,  for  it  is  a  great  portent.  I  hope  it 
may  yet  be  inhabited  and  have  its  pontiff  before  we  die.  .  .  . 

Martin  Luther,  Christi  lutum.1 

1  Christ's  mud ;  one  of  Luther's  frequent  puns  on  his  own  name. 


The  terrible  year  passed,  and  the  habitual  round  of  work  and 
domestic  joys  and  sorrows  was  resumed.  Among  the  latter  the 
heaviest  that  Luther  was  called  upon  to  bear  was  the  death  of 
his  parents.  In  February,  1530,  his  brother  James  wrote  him 
of  their  father's  serious  illness.  Feeling  unable  to  go  to  his 
parent's  bedside,  the  Reformer  wrote  him  a  long,  hearty  letter. 
"  I  would  have  come  to  you  personally  with  the  greatest  readi- 
ness," he  says,  "  but  good  friends  persuaded  me  not  to,  and  I  my- 
self thought  it  best  not  to  tempt  God  by  putting  myself  in  peril, 
for  you  know  how  lords  and  peasants  feel  towards  me."  After 
a  long  exhortation  and  much  ghostly  comfort  drawn  from  Scrip- 
ture, he  closes :  — 

I  hope  that  your  pastor  will  point  out  such  things  to  you  faithfully, 
so  that  you  will  not  need  what  I  say  at  all,  but  yet  I  write  to  ask  for- 
giveness for  my  bodily  absence,  which,  God  knows,  causes  me  heart- 
felt sorrow.  My  Katie,  little  Hans  and  Magdalene  and  Aunt  Lena 
and  all  my  household  send  you  greetings  and  pray  for  you  faithfully. 
Greet  my  mother  and  all  dear  friends.  God's  grace  and  strength  be 
and  abide  with  you  forever.   Amen. 

Your  loving  son, 

Martin  Luther. 

The  writer  of  this  letter  was  fond  of  telling  how,  when  the 
Mansfeld  pastor  read  it  to  old  Hans,  and  asked  him  if  he  be- 
lieved all  that  it  contained,  the  latter  replied :  "  Aye ;  he  would 
be  a  knave  who  did  not." 

The  aged  miner  died  on  May  29.  His  son  was  then  at  the 
castle  known  as  Feste  Coburg.  When  he  heard  the  sad  news 
he  wrote  Wenzel  Link,  June  5,  1530 :  "  Now  I  am  sorrowful, 
for  I  have  received  tidings  of  the  death  of  my  father,  that  dear 
and  gentle  old  man  whose  name  I  bear,  and  although  I  am  glad 
for  his  sake  that  his  journey  to  Christ  was  so  easy  and  pious  and 
that,  freed  from  the  monsters  of  this  world  he  rests  in  peace, 
nevertheless  my  heart  is  moved  to  sorrow.  For  under  God  I 
owe  my  life  and  bringing  up  to  him." 

A  year,  a  month  and  a  day  after  the  demise  of  her  husband 
Margaret  Luther  followed  him  into  the  grave.  At  this  time, 
too,  Martin  felt  unable  to  attend  his  dying  parent,  although  the 


trip  to  Mansfeld,  was  only  fifty  miles.  Instead  he  again  wrote 
a  Scriptural  letter  recalling  Jesus'  words,  "  I  have  overcome 
the  world."  He  closes,  "  All  my  children  and  Katie  pray  for 
you.  Some  cry,  some  say  while  eating,  ■  Grandmother  is  very 




One  of  the  most  curious  incidents  in  Luther's  career  was  his 
intercourse  with  Henry  VIII  of  England.  Although  perhaps 
it  had  little  influence  on  the  Reformer's  career,  it  is  worth  trac- 
ing on  account  of  its  intrinsic  interest,  especially  to  English 

Within  little  more  than  a  year  after  the  posting  of  the 
Theses,  Luther's  works  had  been  exported  to  England,  and  that 
they  attracted  the  attention  of  the  government  maybe  inferred 
from  a  letter  of  Erasmus,  who  says  that  but  for  his  intervention 
they  would  have  been  burned.  It  was  from  this  "  vigilant  per- 
son" that  Henry  got  his  first  definite  impression  of  the  Reformer. 
When  he  came  to  Calais  in  the  summer  of  1520  the  humanist 
visited  him,  and  they  talked  of  Luther.  "Erasmus  especially 
wished  to  get  the  cooperation  of  his  powerful  patron  in  a  plan 
he  had  of  making  peace  by  referring  the  question  of  heresy  to 
a  board  of  impartial  and  learned  judges. 

It  was  Cardinal  Wolsey,  ambitious  for  the  highest  place  in 
the  Roman  Church,  who  urged  his  master  to  take  a  decided 
part  against  the  German  monk.  He  burned  the  heretic's  books 
(May  12,  1521),  induced  Henry  to  write  to  the  Emperor  in  the 
interests,of  the  Catholic  Church  (May  30,  1521),  and,  procur- 
ing a  copy  of  the  Babylonian  Captivity,  gave  it  to  his  master, 
who  was  proud  of  his  attainments,  with  a  suggestion  that  it 
would  be  a  worthy  act  for  him  to  refute  it.  Henry  complied,  and 
produced,  in  the  summer  of  1521,  An  Assertion  of  the  Seven 
Sacraments,  dedicated  to  Pope  Leo,  from  whom  it  won  for  its 
author  the  title  Defender  of  the  Faith. 

In  tone  the  work  is  as  violent  as  most  of  the  invective  of  the 
day :  "  What  pest  so  pernicious  as  Luther  has  ever  attacked  the 
flock  of  Christ  ?  .  .  .  What  a  wolf  of  hell  is  he  !  What  a  limb 
of  Satan !  How  rotten  is  his  mind !  How  execrable  his  purpose !  " 


In  point  of  logic  the  polemic  is  occasionally  faulty.  For  in- 
stance Luther  had  denied  that  the  mass  is  a  good  work  in  the 
sense  in  which  the  Catholic  Church  always  considered  it  a  mer- 
itorious act  on  the  part  of  all  participating.  Henry  replies  that 
he  who  makes  an  image  out  of  wood  does  a  work ;  Christ  in 
making  his  flesh  out  of  bread  does  a  work ;  but  what  Christ 
does  is  good ;  therefore  the  mass  is  a  good  work ! 

Luther  answered  in  July,  1522.  In  tone  he  is  as  angry  as 
11  that  king  of  lies,  King  Heinz,  by  God's  ungrace  King  of  Eng- 
land." Henry  has  acted  so  little  like  a  king  that  he  does  not 
think  he  need  treat  him  like  one  :  "  For  since  with  malice  afore- 
thought that  damnable  and  rotten  worm  has  lied  against  my 
king  in  heaven,  it  is  right  for  me  to  bespatter  this  English 
monarch  with  his  own  filth  and  trample  his  blasphemous  crown 
under  feet."  As  to  the  arguments  advanced,  he  ridicules  them, 
feeling  that  God  has  smitten  the  papists  with  blindness  so  that 
the  more  he  cries  out  "  the  gospel  and  Christ "  the  more  they 
answer,  "the  fathers,  customs,  statutes."  Little  ability  as  the 
work  shows,  it  is  plain  that  Henry  did  not  write  it,  but  "  Lee l  or 
one  of  those  snivelling,  drivelling  sophists  bred  by  the  Thomist 

When  Henry  heard  of  the  unquelled  violence  of  his  opponent 
he  moved  every  lever  to.  revenge  his  royal  honor.  First  he  wrote 
to  Frederic,  John  and  George,  Dukes' of  Saxony,  whom  he  evi- 
dently thought  of  as  ruling  over  the  same  territory.  From  the 
first  two  he  received  a  diplomatic  but  evasive  answer ;  George 
replied  more  satisfactorily,  but  was  able  to  do  nothing. 

Then  the  King  moved  a  number,  of  theologians  to  attack 
Luther ;  the  two  prominent  English  scholars,  Fisher,  Bishop  of 
Rochester,  and  Sir  Thomas  More  did  so,  as  well  as  Murner, 
and,  most  important  of  all,  Erasmus. 

If  these  efforts,  diplomatic  and  literary,  failed  to  crush  his 
opponent,  a  few  years  later  Henry  had  an  extremely  good  chance 
to  humiliate  him.  In  the  spring  of  1525  King  Christian  II  of 
Denmark,  a  personal  friend  of  Luther,  gave  him  the  somewhat 

1  Edward  Lee,  prominent  as  an  opponent  of  Erasmus.  The  spirit  of  the  work 
was  Henry's,  but  he  probably  received  much  help  from  Fisher  and  other  learned 


premature  information  that  England  was  becoming  favorable 
to  the  Evangelic  faith.  In  May,  therefore,  the  Reformer  com- 
posed a  letter  to  the  King,  which  he  sent  to  Spalatin  for  advice. 
This  friend  wisely  advised  him  to  keep  silence,  but  Luther 
could  not  let  slip  the  opportunity  of  winning  so  powerful  an 
adherent,  especially,  perhaps,  as  he  felt  his  position  somewhat 
weakened  by  the  Peasants'  Revolt  and  the  death  of  the  Elector 
Frederic,  and  therefore  on  September  1  he  dispatched  the  fol- 
lowing missive :  — 


Wittenberg,  September  1,  1525. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ,  our  Lord  and  Saviour.  Amen.  Indeed, 
Most  Serene  and  Illustrious  King,  I  ought  greatly  to  fear  to  address 
your  Majesty  in  a  letter,  as  I  am  fully  aware  that  your  Majesty  is 
deeply  offended  at  my  pamphlet,  which  I  published  foolishly  and  pre- 
cipitately, not  of  my  own  motion  but  at  the  hest  of  certain  men  who 
are  not  your  Majesty's  friends.  But  daily  seeing  your  royal  clemency, 
I  take  hope  and  courage ;  I  will  not  believe  that  a  mortal  can 
cherish  immortal  hatred.  I  have  learned  from  credible  authority  that 
the  book  published  over  your  Majesty's  name  was  not  written  by  your 
Majesty,  but  by  crafty  men  of  guile  who  abused  your  name,  especially 
by  that  monster  detested  of  God  and  man,  that  pest  of  your  kingdom, 
Cardinal  Wolsey.  They  did  not  see  the  danger  of  humiliating  their 
king.  I  am  ashamed  to  raise  my  eyes  to  your  Majesty  because  I  al- 
lowed myself  to  be  moved  by  this  despicable  work  of  malignant  in- 
triguers, especially  as  I  am  the  offscouring  of  the  world,  a  mere  worm 
who  ought  only  to  live  in  contemptuous  neglect. 

What  impels  me  to  write,  abject  as  I  am,  is  that  your  Majesty  has 
begun  to  favor  the  Evangelic  cause  and  to  feel  disgust  at  the  aban- 
doned men  who  oppose  us.  This  news  was  a  true  gospel  —  i.e.,  tidings 
of  great  joy  —  to  my  heart.  ...  If  your  Serene  Majesty  wishes  me 
to  recant  publicly  and  write  in  honor  of  your  Majesty,  will  you, gra- 
ciously signify  your  wish  to  me  and  I  will  gladly  do  so.  .  .  . 
Your  Majesty's  most  devoted, 

Martin  Luther,  with  his  own  hand. 

This  letter  naturally  did  no  good.  Indeed,  though  Luther  was 
certainly  sincere  in  his  desire  to  conciliate,  he  never  displayed 
greater  lack  of  tact  than  in  dispraising  the  King's  book  and 


favorite  minister.  After  a  long  delay,  Henry  replied  in  a  fiercer 
work  than  before,  printing  Luther's  missive  with  mocking 
comments,  and  taunting  him  with  having  caused  the  Peasants' 
Revolt  and  with  living  in  wantonness  with  a  nun. 

The  King  sent  his  epistle,  which  reached  the  proportions  of  a 
small  book,  to  Duke  George,  and  it  was  promptly  published  in 
Germany  at  his  instigation  under  the  title,  Luther's  Offer  to 
Recant  in  a  letter  to  the  King  of  England.  This  twisting  of  his 
apology  into  a  recantation  excited  the  Reformer's  ire  again  and 
he  replied  with  a  pamphlet,  Against  the  Title  of  the  King  of 
England's  Libel.  In  this  he  asserts  that  he  will  not  recant  his 
doctrine :  "  No,  no,  no,  not  while  I  live,  let  it  irk  king,  prince, 
emperor,  devil,  and  whom  it  may."  He  has  tried  hard  to  keep 
the  peace  both  with  Erasmus  and  with  Henry  :  "  but  I  am  a 
sheep  and  must  remain  a  sheep  to  think  that  I  can  pacify  such 

Henry- did. not  continue  the  altercation  further,  but  revenged 
himself  by  stamping  out  the  Evangelic  faith  in  England  and  by 
giving  a  play,  representing  "  the  heretic  Luther  like  a  party 
friar  in  russet  damask  and  black  taffety,  and  his  wife  like  a  f row 
of  Almayn  in  red  silk,"  St.  Martin's  Eve,  November  9,  1527. 

The  rancor  borne  by  the  haughty  monarch  did  not  prevent 
his  seeking  the  aid  of  his  enemy  when  the  latter  might  become 
useful  to  him.  It  is  not  necessary  here  to  resume  the  history  of 
Henry's  separation  from  Catharine  of  Aragon  nor  to  probe  his 
strangely  mingled  motives.  After  a  long  but  vain  effort  to  get 
from  the  Pope  a  divorce  on  the  ground  that  the  union  with  a 
brother's  widow  was  forbidden  by  Leviticus  xx,  21,  the  monarch 
decided  to  take  matters  into  his  own  hands,  and,  in  order  to  re- 
assure both  himself  and  his  subjects,  began,  in  1529,  to  solicit 
the  opinions  of  foreign  universities  and  "  strange  doctors." 

As  early  as  1529  he  threatened  to  appeal  from  the  Catholics 
to  the  Lutherans,  introduced  some  Evangelic  books  into  his 
court,  and  even  praised  the  once  hated  heretic  to  Chapuys,  the 
-imperial  ambassador.  It  is  possible  that  he  applied  to  the  re- 
formers in  1530 ;  it  is  certain  that  he  did  so  in  1531.  Simon 
Grynaeus  was  the  agent  employed  to  deal  with  the  Swiss  and 
with  Melanchthon,  but  a  special  messenger  was  sent  to  Luther. 


This  man,  whose  name  is  not  mentioned  in  the  sources,  applied 
first  to  Robert  Barnes,  who,  having  been  forced  to  flee  from 
England  on  account  of  his  faith,  in  1528,  had  made  his  way  to 
Wittenberg  and  in  time  became  a  warm  friend  of  Luther  and 
a  guest  at  his  house.  The  agent  then  went  to  Philip  of  Hesse 
and  urged  him  to  write  the  Reformer  for  an  opinion  on  Henry's 
divorce,  a  request  with  which  the  Landgrave  complied. 

Luther  gave  his  answer  to  Barnes  in  a  long  letter  dated 
September  3,  1531.  Emphatically  denying  the  legitimacy  of 
the  divorce,  he  writes :  — 

I  do  not  now  question  what  a  papal  dispensation  in  such  matters  is 
worth,  but  I  say  that  even  if  the  King  sinned  in  marrying  his  brother's 
widow  it  would  be  a  much  greater  sin  cruelly  to  put  her  away  now. 
Rather  let  him  take  another  queen,  following  the  example  of  the 
patriarchs,  who  had  many  wives  even  before  the  law  of  Moses  sanc- 
tioned the  practice,  but  let  him  not  thrust  his  present  wife  from  her 
royal  position.  I  pray  with  all  my  heart  that  Christ  may  prevent  this 

The  proposal  to  commit  bigamy,  rather  than  to  divorce,  shocks 
an  age  accustomed  to  regard  the  latter  as  the  preferable  alter- 
native. The  general  opinion  of  the  sixteenth  century  was  ex- 
actly opposite  to  that  of  the  twentieth  on  this  point,  for  the 
simple  reason  that  polygamy,  practised  in  the  Old  Testament, 
was  never  expressly  forbidden  by  the  New,  which  discounten- 
ances divorce.  Luther's  good  conscience  in  giving  this  advice 
is  shown  by  its  disinterestedness  —  for  by  complying  with  the 
King's  wish  for  divorce  he  might  have  won  a  powerful  convert  — 
as  well  as  by  the  previous  statement  in  the  Babylonian  Captivity 
of  the  same  opinion.  That  his  views  were  shared  by  a  large 
number  of  his  contemporary  divines,  both  Protestant  and  Cath- 
olic, has  been  demonstrated  in  a  very  careful  study  by  Doctor 

Barnes  left  Wittenberg  the  day  after  this  letter  was  written, 
and  hastened,  via  Magdeburg  and  Liibeck,  to  London,  where 
he  was  received  by  his  royal  master  in  December.  The  monarch 
was  naturally  displeased  with  his  message  and  dismissed  him 
"with  much  ill  will." 

Nevertheless  the  very  next  year  he  sent  Paget  to  Germany  to 

HENRY  VIII  ,  197 

persuade  the  Protestant  doctors  to  write  for  the  divorce.  The 
emissary  reached  Wittenberg,  August  12,  1532,  but  got  no 
more  satisfaction  than  had  Barnes.  On  this  occasion  Luther 
says :  "  I  advised  the  King  that  it  would  be  better  for  him  to 
take  a  concubine x  than  to  ruin  his  people ;  nevertheless  he 
craftily  put  away  his  queen." 

In  1533  the  King  made  another  attempt  to  get  a  favorable 
opinion  from  the  Wittenbergers,  but  presumably  with  the  same 

Undeterred  by  these  rebuffs  he  dispatched  Barnes,  in  March, 
1535,  on  the  same  errand.  Hardly  had  the  ambassador  returned 
before  Henry  heard  that  Francis  I  of  France  was  seeking  the 
alliance  of  the  Schmalkaldic  League,  and,  to  counteract  this 
move  of  his  rival,  he  again  sent  Barnes  posthaste  with  a  gift 
of  five  hundred  gulden  to  Melanchthon  and  an  invitation  to 
visit  London,  and  with  a  smaller  present  of  fifty  gulden  to  Lu- 
ther. In  a  letter  of  September  12,  1535,  Luther  strongly  urged 
his  government  to  allow  Melanchthon  to  accept  the  invitation, 
and  in  the  same  letter  adds :  "  Concerning  the  King's  marriage 
it  is  agreed  that  the  other  ambassador  shall  treat  with  us.  .  .  . 
I  am  curious  to  learn  why  they  want  to  be  so  well  satisfied  on 
this  point."  This  curiosity  will  be  shared  by  others.  The  per- 
sistent efforts  of  the  King  remind  one  of  Wolsey's  saying  that 
what  he  once  took  into  his  head  no  one  could  ever  get  out. 

The  expected  ambassador  —  or  rather  two  of  them  —  arrived 
in  December.  They  were  no  less  personages  than  Edward  Fox, 
Bishop  of  Hereford,  and  Archdeacon  Nicholas  Heath.  Their 
special  mission  with  Luther,  apart  from  diplomatic  business 
with  the  Elector,  was  to  secure  a  favorable  opinion  of  the  divorce. 
For  a  time  they  had  hopes  of  success,  but  their  importunity 
finally  wearied  Luther,  and  when  they  returned  they  took  with 
them  a  polite  letter  from  the  Reformer  to  Cromwell  but  an  un- 
favorable judgment.  According  to  this  the  Wittenberg  theo- 
logians decided  that  though  divine  and  moral  law  prohibit 
marriage  with  a  brother's  wife,  after  marriage  had  taken  place 
no  divorce  is  permissible. 

1  Luther  uses  this  word  to  designate  a  second  legitimate  but  subordinate  wife. 
Cf.  De  Wette-Seideraann,  vi,  276. 


Soon  after  the  return  of  the  embassy  to  England,  Henry  ex- 
ecuted Anne  (May  19,  1536)  and  the  next  day  married  his  third 
wife,  Jane  Seymour.  He  naturally  did  not  apply  to  Luther  any 
more.  The  Reformer  was  apprised  of  his  act  by  a  letter  from 
Alesius,  a  Scotch  Lutheran,  and  calls  it  "  a  monstrous  tragedy." 
He  seems,  however,  to  have  approved  of  the  execution  of  his 
two  old  enemies,  More  and  Fisher. 

Intercourse  with  England  was  brisk  during  the  next  years, 
for  it  was  the  policy  of  Thomas  Cromwell,  the  English  minister, 
to  ally  himself  to  the  Schmalkaldic  League.  In  May,  1538,  an 
Englishman  came  to  Wittenberg  and  gave  an  interesting  ac- 
count of  the  visitation  of  the  monasteries  and  of  the  images 
which  were  made  to  move  by  machinery.  At  the  same  time  the 
German  Protestants  sent  as  envoys  to  Britain  the  Vice-Chan- 
cellor Burkhardt  and  the  theologian  Myeonius.  With  them 
Luther  sent  a  kind  letter  to  Bishop  Fox. 

The  alliance  culminated  in  the  marriage  of  Henry  with 
Anne  of  Cleves,  January,  1540.  In  the  following  July,  however, 
she  was  divorced,  and  Cromwell  paid  with  his  life  the  penalty 
for  the  failure  of  his  policy.  A  violent  reaction  against  Luther- 
anism  followed ;  among  its  martyrs  was  Robert  Barnes.  The 
Reformer  edited  his  English  friend's  confession  of  faith,  drawn 
up  just  before  his  death,  with  a  preface  stating  that  he  is  for- 
ever done  with  Henry  and  such  devils.  Melanchthon  only 
wished  that  God  would  free  the  world  from  such  a  monster  at 
the  hand  of  an  able  tyrannicide.  Luther,  though  he  never  went 
so  far  as  this,  expressed  his  opinion  with  sufficient  vigor: 
"  This  king  wants  to  be  God ;  he  founds  articles  of  faith  which 
even  the  Pope  never  did.  ...  I  believe  him  to  be  an  incarnate 



Before  Luther's  fame  had  eclipsed  that  of  all  his  contem- 
poraries, the  greatest  figure  in  the  republic  of  letters  was 
Desiderius  Erasmus  of  Rotterdam,  who  had  attained  to  an 
acknowledged  sovereignty  like  that  later  accorded  to  Voltaire. 
He  combined  great  learning  with  a  wonderful  mastery  of  style, 
especially  of  the  lighter  kind,  sparkling  with  wit.  He  was, 
moreover,  inspired  with  a  serious  purpose  of  reform,  in  the 
service  of  which  he  used  all  his  great  and  various  talents.  In 
his  Praise  of  Folly  (1511)  he  had  written  a  cutting  satire  on 
the  least  admirable  aspects  of  the  mediaeval  Church,  and  by  his 
edition  of  the  Greek  Testament  (1516)  he  had  given  an  im- 
mense stimulus  along  with  necessary  means  to  a  fruitful  study 
of  the  Bible.  He  was  the  deadly  enemy  of  superstition  and  ob- 
scurantism, and  the  bold  champion  of  sound  learning  and  free 
thought.  His  true  greatness  would  be  proved,  if  by  nothing 
else,  by  the  fact  that  two  such  opposite  and  such  large  men  as 
Martin  Luther  and  Francois  Rabelais  *  derived  much  of  their 
inspiration  from  him. 

Erasmus*  idea  of  a  reformation  differed  from  that  of  Luther 
partly  in  aim  but  more  in  method.  The  humanist  had  a  strong 
love  of  peace  and  a  sincere  horror  of  the  "  tumult."  He  judged 
that  strong  measures  were  always  inexpedient,  and,  had  he 
judged  otherwise,  he  would  not,  by  his  own  confession,  have 
had  the  courage  to  adopt  them. 

The  Wittenberg  professor,  who  keenly  sought  the  best  and 
most  recent  books  on  divinity,  learned  to  know  many  of  Eras- 
mus* commentaries  and  used  them  freely,  along  with  the  new 
edition  of  the  Greek  Testament,  in  preparing  his  lectures. 
With  his  usual  independence  of  judgment  he  did  not  acquiesce 

1  L.  Thuasne  :  Etudes  sur  Rabelais,  Paris,  1904,  pp.  27  ff.  Forstemann  und 
Giinther :  Brieftjan  Erasmus,  Leipsic,  1904,  p.  216. 


in  all  the  conclusions  of  the  great  scholar.  On  October  19, 
1516,  he  wrote  Spalatin  that  he  had  detected  an  unsound  ex- 
egesis in  the  humanist's  commentary  on  Romans,  and  begged 
his  friend  to  communicate  the  objection  to  the  author.  Spalatin 
complied  but  received  no  answer.  Luther  continued  to  read  Eras- 
mus, and  in  the  Commentary  on  Galatians  referred  with  apprecia- 
tion to  his  predecessor's  work  in  this  field.  Indeed  the  first  of  the 
Ninety-five  Theses  may  have  been  suggested  by  Erasmus'  trans- 
lation of  Mark  i,  15.  That  the  monk  also  read  the  lighter 
works  of  the  man  of  letters  is  proved  by  his  reference  in  an 
epistle  of  November,  1517,  to  the  Dialogue  between  Peter  and 
Julius  II :  "  It  is  written,"  said  he,  "  so  merrily,  so  learnedly  and 
so  ingeniously,  —  that  is  so,  Erasmianly,  —  that  it  makes  one 
laugh  at  the  vices  and  miseries  of  the  Church,  at  which  every 
Christian  ought  rather  to  weep."  Nevertheless  he  at  one  time 
had  the  intention  of  translating  it  into  German,  but  gave  it  up, 
fearing  that  he  could  not  do  it  justice. 

That  the  young  reformer  expected  to  find  an  ally  in  the  elder 
was  perfectly  natural.  It  was  probably  the  influence  of  Me- 
lanchthon  that  first  induced  his  friend  to  approach  the  great 
scholar  definitely  with  this  end.  The  first  letter,  somewhat  con- 
densed, is  as  follows :  — 


Wittenberg,  March  28,  1519. 

Greeting.  I  chat  much  with  you  and  you  with  me,  O  Erasmus,  our 
glory  and  hope!  ■ —  but  yet  we  are  not  acquainted.  Is  not  that  monstrous? 
No,  it  is  not  monstrous,  but  a  thing  we  see  daily.  For  who  is  there  whose 
innermost  parts  Erasmus  has  not  penetrated,  whom  Erasmus  does  not 
teach  and  in  whom  he  does  not  reign  ?  I  mean  of  those  who  love  letters, 
for  among  the  other  gifts  of  Christ  to  you,  this  also  must  be  mentioned, 
that  you  displease  many,  by  which  criterion  I  am  wont  to  know  what 
God  gives  in  mercy  from  what  he  gives  in  wrath.  I  therefore  congrat- 
ulate you,  that  while  you  please  good  men  to  the  last  degree,  you 
no  less  displease  those  who  wish  only  to  be  highest  and  to  please 
most.  .  .  . 

Now  that  I  have  learned  from  Fabritius  Capito  that  my  name  is 
known  to  you  on  account  of  my  little  treatise  on  indulgences,  and  as 
I  also  learn  from  your  preface  to  the  new  edition  of  your  Handbook  of 


the  Christian  Knight,  that  my  ideas  are  not  only  known  to  you  but 
approved  by  you,  I  am  compelled  to  acknowledge  my  debt  to  you  as 
the  enricher  of  my  mind,  even  if  I  should  have  to  do  so  in  a  barbar- 
ous style.  .  .  . 

And  so,  dear  Erasmus,  if  it  please  you,  learn  to  know  this  little 
brother  in  Christ  also  :  he  is  assuredly  your  very  zealous  friend,  but 
otherwise  deserves,  on  account  of  his  ignorance,  only  to  be  buried  in 
a  corner,  unknown  even  to  your  climate  and  sun.  .  .  . 

Erasmus,  who  had  already  praised  the  Theses  (though  he 
denied  the  reference  to  them  in  the  preface  to  the  Handbook), 
replied  to  this  letter  in  a  friendly  way,  assuring  his  correspondent 
that  he  had  many  friends  in  the  Netherlands  and  in  England, 
commending  his  Commentaries  on  the  Psalms,  but  warning  him 
to  guard  against  violence  (May  30, 1519).  About  the  same  time 
the  humanist  wrote  to  Frederic  the  Wise  and  to  Melanchthon, 
testifying  his  high  esteem  for  the  Saxon  monk. 

The  letter  of  May  30,  which  the  author  had  intended  to  be 
private,  was  shortly  printed  at  Leipsic.  Partly  to  guard  against 
misapprehension,  and  partly  to  help  the  cause  of  reform,  Eras- 
mus wrote  in  November  to  Albert  of  Mayence,  praising  Luther's 
character  and  urging  that  he  be  not  condemned  unheard,  add- 
ing :  "  He  wrote  me  a  right  Christian  letter,  to  my  own  mind, 
which  I  answered  by  warning  him  not  to  write  anything  seditious 
or  irreverent  to  the  Pope  or  arrogantly  or  in  anger.  ...  I  said 
that  thus  could  he  conciliate  the  opinion  of  those  who  favor 
him,  which  some  have  foolishly  interpreted  to  mean  that  I 
favor  him."  This  letter,  entrusted  to  the  impetuous  Ulrich  von 
Hutten,  was  by  him  forthwith  published,  with  "  Luther " 
changed  into  "  our  Luther." 

This  indiscretion,  to  call  it  by  its  mildest  name,  was  intended 
to  make  Erasmus  declare  for  the  reform  at  once,  but  it  had 
rather  the  opposite  effect.  The  humanist  was  already  at  swords' 
points  with  the  Dominicans,  and  now  an  enormous  buzz  arose 
from  this  quarter  that  he  of  Rotterdam  was  in  straight  alliance 
with  him  of  Wittenberg  and  helped  him  to  compose  his 
works.  The  theologians  of  Louvain,  where  Erasmus  then  lived, 
published  a  condemnation  of  the  heretic's  doctrine  ;  the  man 
attacked  struck  back  (1520),  saying,  "  They  have  condemned 


not  only  me,  but  Occam,  Mirandola,  Valla,  Reuchlin,  Wesel, 
Lefevre  d'Etaples,  and  Erasmus,  that  ram  caught  by  the  horns 
in  the  bushes."  The  humanist  wrote  in  March  to  Melanchthon, 
saying  that  the  Answer  to  the  Condemnation  of  Louvain  pleased 
him  wonderfully,  but  at  the  same  time  wrote  to  the  author  a 
letter  (now  lost),  probably  asking  him  not  to  mention  his  name 
any  more,  to  which  Luther  replied  (if  we  may  conjecture  from 
other  indications,  for  his  letter,  too,  is  lost)  that  he  would  not 
do  so. 

Throughout  the  year  1520  Erasmus  did  his  best  to  secure  the 
accused  heretic  a  fair  hearing.  "  They  find  it  easier  to  burn  his 
books  than  to  refute  them,"  he  said,  and  set  about  writing  and 
speaking,  to  Frederic  the  Wise,  to  Henry  VIII  of  England,  to 
Albert  of  Mayence,  even  to  the  Pope  and  cardinals,  urging  them 
not  to  proceed  by  force.  When  Aleander  came  to  Louvain,  on 
October  8,  1520,  published  the  bull  and  burned  Luther's  books, 
Erasmus,  who  was  attacked  by  him,  replied  in  an  anonymous 
polemic,  The  Acts  of  Louvain,  discrediting  the  legate  and  de- 
claring his  belief  that  the  bull  was  forged.  His  interview  with 
the  Elector  of  Saxony  at  Cologne  on  November  5,  in  which  he 
urged  him  to  insist  that  his  subject  have  an  impartial  trial,  has 
already  been  mentioned,  as  has  his  Counsel  of  One  desiring  the 
Peace  of  the  Church,  a  memorial  at  this  time  pressed  upon  the 
Emperor's  advisers,  and  the  plan  of  arbitration  composed  by 
Erasmus  and  presented  by  Faber  at  the  Diet  of  Worms. 

Although  these  efforts  immensely  helped  the  Reformer,  they 
did  not  accomplish  all  that  the  humanist  hoped.  Moreover  he 
began,  about  1521,  to  be  alienated  by  the  other's  violence.  The 
Babylonian  Captivity  he  thought  prevented  the  possibility  of 
reconciliation,  and  he  was  especially  incensed  by  the  charge  that 
this  work,  first  published  anonymously,  was  written  by  him. 

When  the  news  spread  abroad  of  Luther's  disappearance 
after  the  Diet  of  Worms,  many  expected  that  the  humanist 
would  take  up  the  banner  of  reform.  Albert  Diirer,  then  travel- 
ling in  the  Netherlands  where  he  had  learned  to  know  the  great 
scholar,  wrote  in  his  diary :  "  O  Erasmus  of  Rotterdam,  where 
wilt  thou  abide?  .  .  .  O  thou  knight  of  Christ,  seize  the 
martyr's  crown  !  .  .  .  "  But  this  was  an  honor  the  great  scholar 


did  not  aspire  to.  A  few  days  later  he  wrote  Pace  that  the 
Germans  were  alienating  him  by  trying  to  force  him  to  declare 
for  Luther,  but  that  he  feared,  were  a  tumult  to  arise,  that  he 
would  follow  the  example  of  Peter  and  deny  his  Lord. 

Nevertheless  he  sought  to  remain  neutral,  although  by  so  do- 
ing he  brought  on  himself  the  suspicion  of  favoring  the  heretic. 
In  numerous  letters  to  his  patrons  and  friends  he  excused  him- 
self from  this  charge.  Some  of  these  letters  were  published,  and 
so  Luther  was  kept  posted  on  his  quondam  ally's  change  of  atti- 
tude. In  June,  1523,  he  wrote  to  CEcolampadius :  — 

I  note  the  pricks  that  Erasmus  gives  me  now  and  then,  but  as  he 
does  it  without  openly  declaring  himself  my  foe,  I  act  as  though  I 
were  unaware  of  his  sly  attacks,  although  I  understand  him  better 
than  he  thinks.  He  has  done  what  he  was  called  to  do ;  he  has  brought 
us  from  godless  studies  to  a  knowledge  of  the  tongues ;  perhaps  he  will 
die  in  the  land  of  Moab,  for  to  enter  the  promised  land  he  is  unable. 

That  Erasmus  finally  came  out  as  the  opponent  of  the 
man  he  had  once  supported  was  due  not  only  to  the  urging  of 
his  friends  and  patrons  but  also  to  the  provocation  given  by 
the  reformers.  In  the  letter  to  CEcolampadius,  Luther  spoke 
slightingly  of  the  humanist's  theology,  and  this  letter  was 
shown  Erasmus,  who  had,  since  1521,  removed  from  Louvain 
to  Basel. 

The  fiery  Hutten,  who  could  bear  no  indecision,  precip- 
itated hostilities  by  publishing  in  June,  1523,  an  Expostulation 
with  Erasmus,  roundly  rating  him  for  duplicity  and  cowardice. 
Erasmus  defended  himself  in  the  Sponge  (August),  in  which 
he  incidentally  blames  Luther  for  disturbing  the  peace,  for 
scurrility,  and  especially  for  his  recent  unmeasured  attack  on 
Henry  VIII.  In  a  dedicatory  letter  to  Zwingli  he  mentions  as 
the  chief  errors  of  the  Wittenberg  professor :  (1)  Designation  of 
all  good  works  as  mortal  sin  ;  (2)  denial  of  free  will ;  (3)  justi- 
fication by  faith  alone.  Erasmus  may  have  taken  the  idea  from 
the  letter  of  Henry  VIII  to  Duke  George  (January  20, 1523), 
which  mentioned  these  as  the  fundamental  errors  of  the  heretic. 
This  letter  with  the  Duke's  answer  was  printed,  and  Erasmus 
read  them  both. 


The  reasons  for  Erasmus'  choice  of  this  subject,  the  freedom 
of  the  will,  on  which  to  attack  Luther,  have  been  much  dis- 
cussed. It  has  often  been  said  that  he  chose  the  subject  with 
the  least  practical  interest,  hoping*  in  the  first  place  not  to  put 
an  obstacle  in  the  way  of  reforms  of  which  he  really  approved, 
and  secondly  not  to  antagonize  the  Reformer  whose  person  he 
spared  while  criticising  his  doctrine.  This  motive  probably  had 
its  weight  with  the  humanist,  but  not  the  decisive  weight.  The 
matter  was  "  in  the  air."  Lorenzo  Valla,  always  admired  by 
Erasmus,  had  written  a  work  on  the  freedom  of  the  will  in 
1440,  which  had  recently  been  edited  by  Vadian,  1518.  The 
English  Bishop  Fisher  had  chosen  this  subject  in  his  attack  on 
Luther,  the  Refutation  of  Luther's  Assertion,  being  a  rebuttal 
of  the  Assertion  of  All  the  Articles  Wrongly  Condemned  by 
the  Last  Bull  of  Leo  X,  in  which,  as  we  have  seen  (cf .  supra, 
p.  101),  Luther  argues  at  length,  in  the  thirty-sixth  article,  for 
his  opinion  that  free  will  is  but  a  name.  The  Reformer  himself 
had  selected  this  as  the  foundation  of  all  his  theology,  being, 
in  fact,  no  more  than  another  form  of  the  famous  doctrine  of 
justification  by  faith  alone.  His  position  was  emphasized  and 
clarified  in  Melanchthon's  Common  Places  of  Theology,  ap- 
pearing December,  1521. 

The  Diatribe  on  the  Free  Will  was  first  mentioned  by  its 
author  in  a  letter  to  Henry  VIII  of  September  4,  1523,  and  it 
is  possible  that  a  first  draft  of  it  followed  in  this  year.  Finding 
that  the  printers  at  Basel  were  unwilling  to  publish  anything 
against  the  popular  hero  of  Germany,  Erasmus  had  some 
thoughts  of  going  to  Rome  to  publish  it. 

The  news  of  the  impending  attack  soon  spread.  Luther  him- 
self, judging  that  the  best  way  to  prevent  it  was  to  threaten 
reprisals,  wrote  the  following  letter :  — 


Wittenberg  (about  April  15),  1524. 

Grace  and  peace  from  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ.    I  have  been  silent 

long  enough,  excellent  Erasmus,  having  waited  for  you,  as  the  greater 

and  elder  man,  to  speak  first ;  but  as  you  refuse  to  do  so>  I  think  that 

charity  itself  now  compels  me  to  begin.    I  say  nothing  about  your 


estrangement  from  us,  by  which  you  were  made  safer  against  my 
enemies  the  papists.  Nor  do  I  especially  resent  your  action,  intended 
to  gain  their  favor  or  mitigate  their  hostility,  in  censuring  and  attack- 
ing us  in  various  books.  For  since  we  see  that  the  Lord  has  not  given 
you  courage  or  sense  to  assail  those  monsters  openly  and  confidently 
with  us,  we  are  not  the  men  to  exact  what  is  beyond  your  power  and 
measure.  Rather  we  have  tolerated  and  even  respected  the  mediocrity 
of  God's  gift  in  you.  The  whole  world  knows  your  services  to  letters 
and  how  you  have  made  them  flourish  and  thus  prepared  a  path  for 
the  direct  study  of  the  Bible.  For  this  glorious  and  splendid  gift  in 
you  we  ought  to  thank  God.  I  for  one  have  never  wished  you  to  leave 
your  little  sphere  to  join  our  camp,  for  although  you  might  have  pro- 
fited the  cause  much  by  your  ability,  genius,  and  eloquence,  yet  as  you 
had  not  the  courage  it  was  safer  for  you  to  work  at  home.  We  only 
fear  that  you  might  be  induced  by  our  enemies  to  fall  upon  our  doc- 
trine with  some  publication,  in  which  case  we  should  be  obliged  to 
resist  you  to  your  face.  We  have  restrained  some  who  would  have 
drawn  you  into  the  arena,  and  have  even  suppressed  books  already 
written  against  you.  We  should  have  preferred  that  Hutten's  Expos- 
tulation had  not  been  written,  and  still  more  that  your  Sponge  had 
not  seen  the  light.  Incidentally  I  may  remark,  that,  unless  I  mistake, 
when  you  wrote  that  book  you  felt  how  easy  it  is  to  write  about  mod- 
eration and  blame  Luther's  excesses,  but  how  hard  or  rather  impos- 
sible it  is  to  practise  what  you  preach  except  by  a  special  gift  of  the 
Spirit.  Believe  it  or  not  as  you  like,  but  Christ  is  witness  that  I 
heartily  regret  that  such  zeal  and  hatred  should  be  roused  against 
you.  I  cannot  believe  that  you  remain  unmoved  by  it,  for  your  forti- 
tude is  human  and  unequal  to  such  trials.  Perhaps  a  righteous  zeal 
moved  them  and  they  thought  that  you  had  provoked  them  in  various 
ways.  Since  they  are  admittedly  too  weak  to  bear  your  caustic  but 
dissembled  sarcasm  (which  you  would  have  pass  for  prudent  modera- 
tion), they  surely  have  a  just  cause  for  indignation,  whereas  if  they 
were  stronger  they  would  have  none.  I,  too,  am  irritable,  and  quite 
frequently  am  moved  to  write  caustically,  though  I  have  only  done 
so  against  hardened  men  proof  against  milder  forms  of  admonition. 
Otherwise  I  think  my  gentleness  and  clemency  toward  sinners,  no 
matter  how  far  they  are  gone  in  iniquity,  is  witnessed  not  only  by  my 
own  conscience  but  by  the  experience  of  many.  Hitherto,  accordingly, 
I  have  controlled  my  pen  as  often  as  you  prick  me,  and  have  written 
in  letters  to  friends  which  you  have  seen  that  I  would  control  it  until 
you  publish  something  openly.    For  although  you  will  not  side  with 


us  and  although  you  injure  or  make  sceptical  many  pious  persons  by 
your  impiety  and  hypocrisy,  yet  I  cannot  and  do  not  accuse  you  of 
wilful  obstinacy.  What  can  I  do  ?  Each  side  is  greatly  exasperated. 
Could  my  good  offices  prevail,  I  would  wish  my  friends  to  cease 
attacking  you  with  so  much  animus  and  to  allow  your  old  age  a  peace- 
ful death  in  the  Lord.  I  think  they  would  do  so  if  they  were  reasonable 
and  considered  your  weakness  and  the  greatness  of  the  cause  which 
has  long  since  outgrown  your  littleness,  especially  as  the  cause  has  now 
progressed  so  far  that  it  has  little  to  fear  from  the  might  —  or  rather 
the  sting  and  bite  —  of  Erasmus.  You  on  your  side,  Erasmus,  ought 
to  consider  their  infirmity  and  abstain  from  making  them  the  butt  of 
your  witty  rhetoric.  Even  if  you  cannot  and  dare  not  declare  for  us, 
yet  at  least  you  might  leave  us  alone  and  mind  your  own  business.  If 
they  suffer  from  your  bites,  you  certainly  will  confess  that  human 
weakness  has  cause  to  fear  the  name  and  fame  of  Erasmus  and  that 
it  is  a  very  much  graver  matter  to  be  snapped  at  by  you  than  to  be 
ground  to  pieces  by  all  the  papists  together.  I  say  this,  excellent  Eras- 
mus, as  an  evidence  of  my  candid  moderation,  wishing  that  the  Lord 
might  give  you  a  spirit  worthy  of  your  reputation,  but  if  he  delays 
doing  so  I  beg  -that  meanwhile  if  you  can  do  nothing  else  you  will  re- 
main a  spectator  of  the  conflict  and  not  join  our  enemies,  and  especially 
that  you  publish  no  book  against  me,  as  I  shall  write  none  against  you. 
Remember  that  the  men  who  are  called  Lutherans  are  human  beings 
like  ourselves,  whom  you  ought  to  spare  and  forgive  as  Paul  says : 
"  Bear  ye  one  another's  burdens."  We  have  fought  long  enough,  we 
must  take  care  not  to  eat  each  other  up.  This  would  be  a  terrible 
catastrophe,  as  neither  one  of  us  really  wishes  harm  to  religion,  and 
without  judging  each  other  both  may  do  good.  Pardon  my  poor  style 
and  farewell  in  the  Lord.  .  .  . 

Martin  Luther. 

Erasmus*  answer,  dated  May  8,  asserts  that  he  is  not  less 
zealous  for  the  cause  of  religion  than  others  who  arrogate  to 
themselves  the  name  "  evangelic,"  and  that  he  has  as  yet  writ- 
ten nothing  against  Luther,  though  had  he  done  so  he  would 
have  won  the  applause  of  the  great  ones  of  the  world. 

Very  soon  after  this  he  finished  the  Diatribe  on  the  Free 
Will.  On  account  of  its  pure  Latinity,  its  moderation,  wit,  and 
brevity,  this  work  is  still  very  readable.  It  is  also  distinguished 
by  the  absence  of  scurrility ;  indeed  it  hardly  makes  the  impres- 


sion  of  a  polemic  at  all,  but  rather  of  a  conversation  on  the  in- 
tellectual movement  of  the  times,  addressed  to  a  wide  audience. 

The  author  expresses  his  perfect  readiness  to  appeal  only  to 
reason  and  to  Scripture,  as  these  are  the  only  grounds  recognized 
by  Luther.  He  defines  free  will  as  the  power  to  apply  one's  self 
to  the  things  leading  to  salvation,  and  appeals  to  the  universal 
opinion  of  mankind  that  each  one  has  such  a  power.  His  strong- 
est argument  is  that  it  would  be  unjust  for  God  to  damn  a 
man  for  doing  what  he  could  not  help.  He  devotes  long  sections 
to  explanations  of  Scriptural  passages,  such  as  "God  hardened 
Pharaoh's  heart,"  which  would  seem  to  militate  against  free 
will,  and  he  refutes  point  by  point  Luther's  arguments  in  the 
Assertion  of  All  the  Articles  Condemned  by  the  Bull  —  a  part 
of  the  work  in  which  he  borrows  much  without  acknowledgment 
from  Bishop  Fisher.  Finally  he  sums  up :  "  Those  please  me 
who  attribute  something  to  free  will  but  much  to  grace."  Both 
must  cooperate  to  save  a  man,  one  may  assign  as  small  a  part 
as  one  likes  to  the  former  factor,  only  it  must  be  some  part. 

The  Diatribe  was  published  in  September,  1524,  and  promptly 
sent  to  the  author's  patrons  and  friends,  most  of  whom  it  had 
the  good  fortune  to  please.  Even  Melanchthon  liked  the  moder- 
ation of  tone  and  the  reasonableness  of  the  argument.  Luther 
himself  confessed  that  of  all  his  opponents  Erasmus  only  had 
gone  to  the  root  of  the  matter  and  instead  of  threatening  him 
with  ban  and  stake  had  undertaken  to  refute  him  by  reasons. 
He  once  said  that  of  all  the  books  written  against  him,  the  Dia- 
tribe was  the  only  one  he  read  through,  but  even  this  made  him 
feel  like  throwing  it  under  the  bench  and  heartily  disgusted 
him.  He  did  not  answer  it  for  more  than  a  year,  a  delay  partly 
accounted  for  by  his  preoccupations  with  the  "  heavenly  pro- 
phets," the  Peasants'  War,  and  his  marriage,  and  partly  by  the 
unusual  care  with  which  he  prepared  his  reply.  His  book  on 
the  Unf  ree  Will  (De  servo  arbitrio)  at  last  appeared  in  Decem- 
ber, 1525. 

This  bulky  volume  has  been  acclaimed  by  most  Protestant 
biographers  of  Luther  as  his  ablest  polemic  and  a  work  of  ex- 
traordinary power.  It  is  needless  to  remark  that  much  of  this 
ability  is  wasted  on  a  generation  for  which  the  question,  then 


so  passionately  disputed,  has  sunk  almost  into  oblivion.  In 
point  of  earnestness  he  is  a  striking  contrast  to  Erasmus.  What 
for  the  latter  is  the  subject  of  an  interesting  discussion  is  to 
him  matter  of  life  and  death.  It  is  in  this  sense  that  he  attrib- 
utes eloquence  and  mastery  of  speech  to  his  opponent,  but  to 
himself  substance  and  real  understanding  of  the  issue. 

Luther  takes  his  former  stand  for  extreme  predestinarianism. 
His  determinism  is  not  founded,  as  that  of  a  modern  philoso- 
pher might  be,  on  any  conception  of  the  immutability  of  natural 
law,  but  is  simply  and  solely  the  logical  deduction  from  his 
doctrine  of  justification  by  faith  alone,  or,  as  it  is  technically 
called,  of  the  monergism  of  grace.  Man  is  a  simple  instrument 
in  God's  hands,  and  the  Almighty  arbitrarily  saves  whom  he 
wills  and  damns  whom  he  wills.  The  extreme  form  in  which 
Luther  put  this  doctrine,  which  is  certainly  revolting  to  our 
ideas,  can  only  be  realized  by  a  few  quotations  of  his  own 
words :  — 

The  human  will  is  like  a  beast  of  burden.  If  God  mounts  it,  it  wishes 
and  goes  as  God  wills  ;  if  Satan  mounts  it,  it  wishes  and  goes  as  Satan 
wills.  Nor  can  it  choose  the  rider  it  would  prefer,  nor  betake  itself  to 
him,  but  it  is  the  riders  who  contend  for  its  possession.  .  .  . 

This  is  the  acme  of  faith,  to  believe  that  God  who  saves  so  few  and 
condemns  so  many  is  merciful ;  that  he  is  just  who  at  his  own  pleasure 
has  made  us  necessarily  doomed  to  damnation,  so  that,  as  Erasmus 
says,  he  seems  to  delight  in  the  tortures  of  the  wretched,  and  to  be  more 
deserving  of  hatred  than  of  love.  If  by  any  effort  of  reason  I  could 
conceive  how  God,  who  shows  so  much  anger  and  iniquity,  could  be 
merciful  and  just,  there  would  be  no  need  of  faith.  .  .  . 

God  foreknows  nothing  subject  to  contingencies,  but  he  foresees, 
foreordains,  and  accomplishes  all  things  by  an  unchanging,  eternal, 
and  efficacious  will.  By  this  thunderbolt  free  will  sinks  shattered  in 
the  dust. 

Besides  defending  his  main  thesis  Luther  here  puts  forward 
his  doctrine  of  infallibility  of  the  Scripture.  He  is  enraged  at  the 
assertion  of  his  opponent  that  there  seem  to  be  contradictions 
in  the  Bible.  According  to  Luther  every  text  must  be  taken 
literally,  and  yet  all  must  be  made  to  agree,  for  as  the  whole 
is  plenarily  inspired  by  divine  wisdom  there  can  be  no  diversity 

ERASMUS       ,  209 

of  doctrine.  Moreover  he  apologizes  for  his  whole  theology,  espe- 
cially replying  to  the  charge  that  tumult  followed  it  by  assert- 
ing that  uproar  always  follows  the  preaching  of  God's  Word. 

He  sent  a  copy  of  the  work,  with  a  letter  asserting  his  con- 
viction of  its  truth,  to  his  opponent,  but  the  messenger  was 
delayed  and  Erasmus  did  not  receive  it  until  April.  In  the 
mean  time  a  friend  in  Leipsic  (Duke  George  ?)  had  sent  him 
a  copy,  which  he  received  on  February  10.  He  commenced  his 
reply  at  once,  spending  only  twelve  days  in  answering  it*  so  as 
to  have  the  reply  ready  to  be  sold  at  the  Frankfort  Fair.  He 
was  astonished  by  the  violence  of  Luther's  invective  of  which 
he  complained  to  the  Elector  of  Saxony.  To  Luther  himself  he 
wrote  as  follows  :  — 


Basel,  April  11,  1526. 
Your  letter  was  delivered  to  me  too  late  and  had  it  come  in  time  it 
would  not  have  moved  me.  .  .  .  The  whole  world  knows  your  nature, 
according  to  which  you  have  guided  your  pen  against  no  one  more 
bitterly  and,  what  is  more  detestable,  more  maliciously  than  against  me. 
.  .  .  The  same  admirable  ferocity  which  you  formerly  used  against 
Fisher  and  against  Cochlaeus,  who  provoked  it  by  reviling  you,  you 
now  use  against  my  book  in  spite  of  its  courtesy.  How  do  your  scur- 
rilous charges  that  I  am  an  atheist,  an  Epicurean,  and  a  sceptic,  help 
the  argument  ?  ...  It  terribly  pains  me,  as  it  must  all  good  men,  that 
your  arrogant,  insolent,  rebellious  nature  has  set  the  world  in  arms.  .  .  . 
You  treat  the  Evangelic  cause  so  as  to  confound  together  all  things 
sacred  and  profane,  as  if  it  were  your  chief  aim  to  prevent  the  tempest 
from  ever  becoming  calm,  while  it  is  my  greatest  desire  that  it  should 
die  down.  .  .  . 

The  Hyperaspistes,  Part  I,  is  a  work  three  times  as  large  as 
the  Diatribe,  of  which  it  is  a  defence,  and  is  moreover  a  general 
attack  on  all  points  of  Luther's  doctrine.  In  it  the  question  of 
free  will  recedes  behind  the  other  question  of  the  excellence  of 
the  Lutheran  movement.  Erasmus  cannot  convince  himself  that 
the  Reformer  is  really  inspired  with  the  spirit  of  the  gospel,  as 
he  has  not  learned  to  avoid  giving  offence.  He  attacks  Luther's 
person  and  the  results  of  his  doctrine,  among  which  are  included 


the  Peasants'  War.  As  the  book  is  written  in  such  haste,  he 
promises  a  continuation  of  it  later  with  fuller  consideration  of 
the  main  argument. 

After  his  first  heat  had  cooled  down,  Erasmus  put  off  this 
promised  work  for  eighteen  months.  That  he  wrote  it  at  all 
was  again  the  work  of  Henry  VIII.  This  monarch's  answer  to 
Luther,  published  in  the  early  part  of  1527,  contains  some  refer- 
ences to  free  will  which  made  the  Reformer  suspect  Erasmus' 
hand  in  its  composition.  This  charge,  coupled  with  the  violence 
of  the  Wittenberg  reformer,  which  alienated  many  persons  be- 
sides Erasmus,  induced  him  to  reply.  This  he  did  in  a  book 
six  times  the  size  of  the  Diatribe,  which  appeared  about  Sep- 
tember 1,  1527,  and  was  called  Hyperaspistes,  Part  II. 

Now  at  last  the  fundamental  difference  between  Erasmus 
and  Luther  is  revealed,  the  opposite  trend  of  the  two  natures. 
The  humanist  reacts  against  Luther's  absolutism;  he  cannot 
abide  hard-and-fast  rules  admitting  no  exception.  Of  himself 
he  said,  "  I  am  prone  to  those  things  like  nature ;  I  abhor  por- 
tents "  ;  of  his  antagonist,  "  He  never  recoils  from  extremes." 
For  the  dogmatic  reformer  there  is  one  absolute  right  and  one 
absolute  wrong  ;  for  the  classic  scholar  men  and  things  cannot  be 
divided  into  such  uncompromising  categories  ;  there  are  shades 
and  degrees.  Luther  is  a  logician ;  from  premises  impeccable, 
because  directly  revealed  in  the  Bible,  he  draws  conclusions  of 
mathematical  precision ;  Erasmus  is  an  evolutionist  and  a 
rationalist,  to  whom  all  truth  does  not  come  through  the  Bible, 
but  much  from  reason.  He  believes,  moreover,  that  men  have 
a  natural  trend  to  the  good.  At  the  close  of  this  comprehensive 
work  he  tries  to  hedge  and  make  peace  again.  After  all,  the 
strife  is  mainly  one  of  words,  and  man  should  remember  that 
salvation  is  God's  work,  but  damnation  that  of  sin.  Just  as 
the  Hyperaspistes,  Part  II,  appeared,  its  author  wrote  Duke 
George  that  Luther's  spirit  was  neither  a  wholly  good  nor  an 
entirely  bad  one. 

The  work  was  received  by  the  Evangelic  party  as  might 
have  been  expected.  Justus  Jonas,  a  quondam  Erasmian,  now 
at  Wittenberg,  referred  to  his  former  beloved  master  as  a  toad. 
Melanchthon,  indeed,  who  resembled  Erasmus  in  many  ways, 


was  half -convinced  that  determinism  would  be  bad  for  the 
morals  of  the  common  man,  for  who  would  try  to  be  good  if 
he  was  convinced  it  was  no  use  ?  Luther  himself  punned  on 
the  double  meaning  of  aspis,  which  in  Greek  means  both  shield 
and  viper  (Hyperaspistes,  a  soldier),  calling  the  work  "  super- 
viperean."  He  never  deigned  to  answer  it  for  reasons  explained 
to  Montanus  in  a  letter  of  May  28,  1529  :  — 

Erasmus  writes  nothing  in  which  he  does  not  show  the  impotence 
of  his  mind  or  rather  the  pain  of  the  wounds  he  has  received.  I  de- 
spise him,  nor  shall  I  honor  the  fellow  by  arguing  with  him  any  more. 
...  In  future  I  shall  only  refer  to  him  as  some  alien,  rather  con- 
demning than  refuting  his  ideas.  He  is  a  light-minded  man,  mocking 
all  religion  as  his  dear  Lucian  does,  and  serious  about  nothing  but 
calumny  and  slander. 

But  the  last  word  was  not  yet  said.  In  1533  George  Witzel, 
a  liberal  Catholic  and  an  admirer  of  Erasmus,  begged  "  that 
Solon"  to  draw  up  a  plan  for  pacifying  the  Church.  The  old 
scholar,  who,  in  the  mean  time,  had  been  forced  to  withdraw 
from  Basel,  now  too  Protestant  for  him,  to  Freiburg,  flattered 
by  the  request,  published  a  reasonable  and  irenic  pamphlet, 
On  Mending  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  advising  that  each 
side  tolerate  the  other  in  non-essential  matters,  that  all  contro- 
versial writings  be  forbidden,  and  that  a  general  council  take 
measures  with  the  civil  authorities  for  restoring  unity  and 
healing  the  schism. 

The  anger  of  the  reformers  was  roused  afresh  by  this  appar- 
ently inoffensive  essay  towards  compromise.  Corvinus  an- 
swered it  in  full,  Luther  writing  a  preface  for  his  work,  proving 
that  there  could  be  no  peace  between  Christ  and  Belial.  At  the 
same  time  he  expressed  himself  more  fully  in  a  long  printed 
letter  to  Amsdorf,  written  about  March  11,  1534,  calling 
Erasmus  by  the  somewhat  contradictory  names  of  heretic, 
atheist,  blasphemer,  and  Arian,  and,  worst  of  all,  one  who 
makes  jokes  of  serious  things  and  serious  business  of  jokes. 

Erasmus  answered  with  A  Justification  against  the  Intem- 
perate Letter  of  Luther,  denying  all  the  accusations  point  by 
point.  Two  years  later  he  died,  in  the  opinion  of  his  adversary 
"  without  light,  without  the  cross,  and  without  God." 


The  table-talk  (1531-46)  is  full  of  the  most  rancorous  ex- 
pressions about  the  great  scholar :  — 

In  writing  his  Folly,  Erasmus  begot  a  daughter  worthy  of  himself. 
He  turns,  twists,  and  bites  like  an  awl,  but  yet  shows  himself  a  true 

On  my  death-bed  I  shall  forbid  my  sons  to  read  his  Colloquies.  .  .  . 
He  is  much  worse  than  Lucian,  mocking  all  things  under  the  guise  of 

He  goes  so  far  as  to  compare  our  Lord  to  the  god  Priapus.  .  .  . 

In  his  New  Testament  he  is  ambiguous  and  cavilling  .  .  .  trying  to 
perplex  the  reader  and  make  him  think  the  doctrine  doubtful.  He 
reviles  all  Christians,  making  no  exception  of  Paul  or  any  pious  man. 

The  battle  between  Luther  and  Erasmus  was  a  real  tragedy. 
The  humanist  had  set  himself,  as  his  life  task,  a  peaceful  re- 
formation of  the  Church ;  abuses,  he  thought,  would  fade  away 
before  gentle  sarcasm  and  the  cultivation  of  good  letters  and 
the  sacred  texts.  The  boisterous  attack  of  the  Wittenberg 
monk,  said  he  sadly,  destroyed  all  hope  of  this.  He  lived  to  see 
his  ideal  of  peace  shattered  in  war,  the  followers  trained  to 
carry  on  his  work  reft  from  him  by  one  side  or  the  other,  and 
his  own  name  spat  upon  by  almost  all. 

For  Luther  the  loss  was  hardly  less.  He  saw  the  man  in 
whom  he  confidently  expected  the  most  valuable  of  all  allies 
gradually  draw  back  from  his  side  and  become  not  only  a 
neutral  but  an  enemy,  to  the  great  scandal  of  his  own  followers 
and  to  the  hurt  of  the  Evangelic  Church.  In  his  anger  and  dis- 
appointment he  more  and  more  expressed  himself  in  unmeas- 
ured terms,  and  more  and  more  forgot  the  good  in  Erasmus 
and  the  services  he  had  done  the  world.  But  those  who  regret 
his  one-sidedness  and  especially  his  violence  should  not  blame 
him  too  hastily.  Every  great  leader  of  a  new  and  struggling 
movement  must  feel  that  he  who  is  not  with  him  is  against  him 
and  that  he  who  gathereth  not  scattereth.  The  citizen  who  re- 
fuses to  take  arms  in  wartime  is  a  public  enemy.  His  scruples 
may  be  honorable,  but  one  can  hardly  blame  the  general  for 
expelling  him  from  the  ranks.  In  the  American  civil  war  no 
character  was  so  much  detested  as  the  "  Copperhead,"  the 
Northern  man  who  refused  to  fight  for  the  Union. 


The  Reformation  is  still  a  living  issue.  A  reflecting  mind 
must  have  an  opinion  on  its  merits.  Some  judge  it  as  a  great 
step  forward,  others  as  a  blow  to  human  progress.  A  few  are 
still  Erasmians,  approving  the  principle  of  the  Reformation, 
they  think  it  might  have  been  accomplished  without  rending 
the  peace  of  the  world.  But  the  mass  of  mankind  are  not  led  in 
that  way.  To  reform  any  institution  it  is  not  sufficient  to  secure 
the  intellectual  adherence  of  a  few  choice  spirits,  the  whole  soul 
of  a  people  must  be  aroused.  One  may  estimate  the  Reforma- 
tion as  one  pleases,  but  to  think  of  it  without  Luther  is  as  un- 
historical  as  to  fancy  that  Christianity  might  have  grown  up 
without  its  great  Founder,  or  that  Islam  could  have  been  born 
in  the  deserts  of  Arabia  without  the  Prophet. 


GERMAN  POLITICS.  1522-1529 

When  Martin  Luther  returned  from  the  Wartburg  in  March, 
1522,  he  found  the  state  of  affairs  very  different,  not  only  at 
Wittenberg,  but  in  the  whole  of  Germany,  from  that  which  he 
had  left  a  year  before.  He  was  no  longer  a  lone  man  fighting 
single-handed  against  the  official  representatives  of  the  universal 
Church ;  he  was  now  at  the  head  of  a  movement  which  grad- 
ually swept  into  its  vortex  the  greater  part  not  only  of  his 
countrymen  but  of  all  civilized  Europe  north  of  the  Alps  and 
the  Pyrenees.  By  far  the  greater  part  of  this  revolution  lies 
entirely  beyond  the  ken  of  a  biographer  of  Luther.  He  cared 
little  or  nothing  for  politics  in  themselves,  partly  because  of  his 
direct  reliance  on  God,  partly  because  he  felt  himself  ill  quali- 
fied to  advise  on  such  matters.  Nevertheless  in  some  phases  of 
public  affairs  he  was  forced  by  his  position  to  interfere. 

Leo  X  died  in  December,  1521.  His  successor,  Adrian  VI, 
a  pious  man  and  a  sincere  Catholic,  fought  both  the  corruption 
within  the  Church  and  the  schism  without.  His  particularly 
close  relations  with  the  Emperor,  to  whom  he  had  once  been 
tutor,  foreboded  danger  to  the  new  cause,  though  as  a  matter  of 
fact  his  short  pontificate  enabled  him  to  do  little.  To  the  Diet 
called  at  Nuremberg  in  1522  he  sent  an  injunction  to  stamp  out 
heresy  in  the  Empire.  Before  this  body  also  came  the  com- 
plaints of  Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony  against  the  fanat- 
ical programme  of  the  prophets  at  Wittenberg.  In  defence  of 
his  subject,  Frederic  the  Wise,  now  as  always  his  best  sup- 
porter, submitted  the  letter  drawn  up  by  Luther  immediately 
after  his  return.1  This,  together  with  the  restoration  of  order  at 
Wittenberg,  impressed  the  members  of  the  Diet  so  favorably 
that  they  declined  to  take  any  decisive  action  against  the  out- 
lawed heretic. 

1  Cf .  supra,  p.  146. 


Nevertheless  his  position  and  that  of  his  protector  was  very 
delicate.  The  Imperial  Edict  of  Worms  was  still  in  force.  Fred- 
eric had  on  this  account  been  much  opposed  to  his  coming  out 
of  hiding,  fearing  that  the  electorate  would  become  embroiled 
with  the  central  government.  In  the  letter  of  March  5,  1522,1 
Luther  had  answered  his  lord's  question  as  to  how  far  he,  Fred- 
eric, was  bound  to  obey  the  higher  power  in  case  it  demanded 
the  execution  of  the  edict,  by  saying  that  it  would  be  sufficient 
to  allow  the  imperial  officers  a  free  hand,  but  that  resistance  to 
them  would  be  rebellion  and  therefore  forbidden  by  God.  This 
disinterested  advice  was  partly  determined  by  the  riots  at  Wit- 
tenberg ;  while  the  Reformer  was  preaching  earnestly  against 
these  disturbers  of  the  peace,  he  could  hardly  request  his  sover- 
eign to  defend  him  against  the  Emperor  by  arms.  The  letter 
gives  the  key-note  to  Luther's  attitude  toward  the  government 
for  the  next  ten  years ;  he  consistently  maintained  that  opposi- 
tion to  it  should  be  confined  to  neglecting  to  execute  its  decrees, 
but  that  all  armed  resistance  must  be  discountenanced  as  tanta- 
mount to  treason.  These  principles  were  thoroughly  worked  out 
in  a  thoughtful  little  pamphlet,  published  in  March,  1523,  en- 
titled :  Of  Civil  Authority  and  how  far  Obedience  is  due 
to  it. 

Formerly,  he  begins,  I  wrote  a  book  to  the  German  Nobility,  to 
point  out  their  office  and  Christian  work.  Every  one  sees  how  well 
they  have  done  their  duty.  But  now  I  must  carefully  advise  them  what 
to  leave  undone,  hoping  that  these  men,  who  have  hitherto  striven  to 
be  Christians  before  they  were  princes,  will  now  let  themselves  be 
guided  by  me.  God  Almighty  has  made  our  princes  foolish,  so  that 
they  think  that  they  can  command  their  subjects  whatever  they  please, 
and  the  subjects  likewise  think  they  are  bound  to  obey  every  command. 
.  .  .  Indeed  the  civil  authorities  presume  to  sit  in  God's  seat,  master- 
ing consciences  and  faith,  and  they  try  to  teach  the  Holy  Ghost.  .  .  . 
Now  since  the  fools  rage  to  extirpate  Christ's  faith,  to  deny  his  Word, 
and  to  blaspheme  his  Majesty,  I  neither  will  nor  can  any  longer 
acquiesce  in  their  doings. 

Nevertheless,  he  continues,  we  must  not  err  on  account  of 
the  spiritual  tyranny  of  the  lords.    The  powers  that  be  are 

1    Supra,  p.  144. 


ordained  of  God  and  have  been  given  a  divine  right  from  the 

The  world  is  divided  into  two  parts,  the  Kingdom  of  God  and 
that  of  the  world ;  it  is  against  the  latter  that  the  temporal 
power  must  bear  the  sword,  but  of  the  former  that  Christ  spoke 
when  he  bade  us  turn  the  other  cheek.  In  a  somewhat  labored 
argument  Luther  even  proves  that  bearing  the  sword  is  an  office 
of  love,  because  it  enables  one  to  protect  his  neighbor  from 

In  the  second  part  of  his  treatise,  the  author  considers  the 
limitations  of  the  secular  power.  The  civil  magistrate  is  not  en- 
titled to  punish  heretics  or  to  force  the  faith  of  any  one.  Lords 
are  no  judges  of  such  matters,  "  for  since  the  foundation  of  the 
world  a  wise  prince  has  been  a  rare  bird  and  a  just  one  much 
rarer.  They  are  generally  the  biggest  fools  and  worst  knaves  on 
earth,  wherefore  one  must  always  expect  the  worst  of  them  and 
not  much  good,  especially  in  divine  matters  which  concern  the 
soul.  They  are  only  God's  gaolers  and  hangmen."  This  harsh 
judgment  of  hereditary  magistrates  is  the  more  surprising  in  a 
work  dedicated  to  Duke  John,  the  Elector's  brother.  In  no  case, 
the  writer  emphatically  sums  up,  may  the  temporal  power  de- 
cide spiritual  things  nor  even  guard  against  plain  false  doctrine. 

In  conclusion  he  points  out  the  duties  of  a  Christian  prince, 
of  which  the  first  and  foremost  fs  to  attend  to  the  weal  of  his 

In  summing  up  Luther's  "  political  theory,"  Professor  Dun- 
ning says  that  two  doctrines  can  be  deduced  from  his  various 
writings  on  the  subject :  "  first,  the  absolute  distinction  in  kind 
between  spiritual  and  secular  interests  and  authority,  and  sec- 
ond, the  Christian  duty  of  passive  submission  to  the  established 
social  and  political  order." 

Both  these  doctrines  were  later  modified  by  the  course  of 
events.  When  the  political  situation  seemed  to  make  it  necessary 
for  the  Protestants  to  fight  for  their  faith,  the  Reformer  under 
a  rather  casuistical  plea  gave  his  consent  to  this  course,  which, 
however,  was  happily  avoided.  In  a  meeting  of  the  jurists  and 
theologians  to  discuss  this  point  at  Torgau  in  1531,  Luther  let 
himself  be  convinced  that  resistance  would  in  some  cases  be 


legal,  justifying  himself  in  a  letter  (dated  February  15,  1531) 
to  Lazarus  Spengler  who  accused  him  of  "  recanting  his  former 
opinion  that  resistance  to  the  Emperor  was  wrong." 

I  am  not  conscious  of  any  inconsistency  (he  writes)  .  .  .  The  jurists 
first  alleged  the  maxim  that  force  might  be  repelled  with  force,  which 
did  not  satisfy  me ;  then  they  pointed  out  that  it  was  a  positive  im- 
perial law  that "  in  cases  of  notorious  injustice  the  government  might 
be  resisted  by  force,"  to  which  I  merely  replied  that  I  did  not  know 
whether  this  was  the  law  or  not,  but  that  if  the  Emperor  had  thus 
limited  himself  we  might  let  him  remain  so  .  .  .  and,  as  the  law  com- 
mands, resist  him  by  force. 

The  proposition  that  one  might  resist  the  Emperor  only  when 
and  because  he  himself  commanded  it,  is  not  really  quite  so  ab- 
surd as  it  seems  when  thus  baldly  stated.  The  sixteenth  century 
had  no  word  for  the  idea  "  constitution,"  so  familiar  to  us.  Had 
Luther  written  four  hundred  years  later,  he  would  have  said  that 
the  imperial  laws  might  be  resisted  when  they  were  unconstitu- 
tional, for  it  must  be  remembered  that  the  Holy  Roman  Empire 
had  a  constitution,  mostly  unwritten,  like  that  of  England,  but 
consisting  partly  of  ancient  charters  like  the  Golden  Bull. 

On  his  first  doctrine,  that  in  no  case  the  civil  power  has  the 
right  to  interfere  in  matters  of  faith,  the  Reformer  was  also 
forced  to  weaken.  The  fanatical  innovations  of  Miinzer  and  the 
prophets,  with  their  sequel  in  the  Peasants'  War,  taught  him 
the  danger  of  allowing  men  to  teach  what  they  pleased  under 
the  guise  of  religion.  Moreover,  when,  in  1525,  an  avowed  Lu- 
theran ascended  the  electoral  throne,  willing  to  support  the  till 
then  struggling  religion  with  powerful  laws,  the  Reformer's  ideas 
of  the  proper  sphere  of  government  considerably  widened,  so 
that  he  became  almost,  though  not  quite,  an  Erastian.  Not  that 
he  ever  allowed  the  right  of  the  magistrate  to  compel  faith,  but 
he  insisted  on  the  duty  of  the  government  to  enforce  uniformity 
in  religious  externals.  Thus,  on  November  11, 1525,  he  wrote 
Spalatin  :  "  Our  government  does  not  force  belief  in  the  Evan- 
gelic faith,  but  only  suppresses  external  abominations  [such  as 
masses  and  all  forms  of  public  worship  save  the  Lutheran].  .  .  . 
For  even  our  opponents  confess  that  the  government  should  put 
down  crimes  like  blasphemy." 


In  the  same  tenor  he  wrote  Joseph  Levin  Metsch,  August  26, 
1529:  — 

No  one  is  to  be  compelled  to  profess  the  faith,  but  no  one  must  be 
allowed  to  injure  it.  Let  our  opponents  give  their  objections  and  hear 
our  answers.  If  they  are  thus  converted,  well  and  good  ;  if  not  let  them 
hold  their  tongues  and  believe  what  they  please.  ...  In  order  to 
avoid  trouble  we  should  not,  if  possible,  suffer  contrary  teachings  in 
the  same  state.  Even  unbelievers  should  be  forced  to  obey  the  Ten 
Commandments,  attend  church,  and  outwardly  conform. 

It  is  easily  seen  that  all  real  freedom  of  conscience  vanishes 
when  the  distinction  between  the  suppression  of  heresy  and  the 
enforcement  of  conformity  by  the  civil  power  is  drawn  so  fine. 
If  Luther's  tolerance  was  far  short  of  modern  standards,  in  one 
respect  he  was  greatly  superior  to  his  contemporaries,  all  of 
whom,  Catholic  princes,  Henry  VIII,  Zwingli  and  Calvin,  put 
dissenters  to  death.  The  man  of  Wittenberg,  in  this  as  in  other 
things,  following  Augustine,  who  punished  heretics  with  banish- 
ment, consistently  refused  to  do  this,  for  reasons  presented  in 
a  letter  to  Wenzel  Link,  written  July  14,  1528 :  — 

You  ask  whether  the  government  may  put  false  prophets  to  death. 
I  hesitate  to  give  capital  punishment  even  when  it  is  evidently  deserved, 
so  much  am  I  terrified  to  think  what  happened  when  the  papists  and 
the  Jews  punished  with  death,  .  .  .  for  in  the  course  of  time  it  has 
always  come  to  pass  that  none  but  the  most  holy  and  innocent  prophets 
were  slain.  .  .  .  Wherefore  it  is  sufficient  to  banish  false  teachers. 

Returning  from  this  digression  on  Luther's  political  theories 
to  the  course  of  history  in  the  years  following  the  Diet  of 
Worms,  we  find  that  the  Reformer's  confidence,  fostered  by  his 
continued  immunity  from  persecution,  that  all  would  work 
together  for  good  without  the  interference  of  man  was  not 
shared  by  his  sovereign.  On  October  12,  1523,  the  professor 
wrote  Spalatin :  — 

Now,  almost  two  years  since  my  return  from  the  Wartburg  you  see 
that,  contrary  to  the  expectation  of  all,  the  Elector  is  not  only  safe 
but  feels  the  rage  of  the  other  princes  much  less  than  he  did  a  year 
ago.  ...  If  I  knew  any  way  of  keeping  him  safe  without  discredit- 
ing the  gospel,  I  would  act  accordingly  even   at  the  expense  of  my 


life.  ...  I  wish  he  possessed  more  equanimity,  and  power  to  dis- 
simulate for  a  while.  His  way  of  acting  does  not  please  me,  for  it 
savors  of  I  know  not  what  unbelief  and  courtly  infirmity  of  soul, 
preferring  temporal  to  spiritual  things. 

This  criticism  of  the  Elector's  policy  was  hardly  justified  by 
events.  While  he  was  procrastinating  and  gaining  time  the  Evan- 
gelic faith  won  many  powerful  converts  throughout  the  Empire. 
The  cause  was  threatened  for  a  moment  by  the  rebellion  and 
fall  of  the  party  of  the  knights  under  Sickingen,  which  claimed 
alliance  with  Wittenberg.  True  to  his  principles  of  obedience, 
the  Reformer  gave  no  countenance  to  the  movement,  designated 
by  Melanchthon  as  brigandage,  and  when  it  was  crushed  in  May, 
1523,  largely  by  the  energy  of  the  Evangelic  Philip  of  Hesse, 
the  recoil  was  not  felt  by  the  growing  Church.  Among  the 
many  gains  made  during  these  years  the  most  important  was 
that  of  Prussia,  till  1523  a  fief  of  the  religious  order  of  Teu- 
tonic Knights,  whose  grand  master,  Albert  of  Brandenburg, 
adopting  the  new  faith,  turned  it  into  a  temporal  realm. 

On  September  14  of  this  same  eventful  year  Adrian  VI 
died.  In  his  place  was  elected  a  Medici,  Clement  VII,  whose 
main  object  was  to  restore  the  elegant  humanism  and  corrupt 
privileges  of  the  Curia  enjoyed  by  the  courtiers  of  his  kinsman, 
Leo  '  X.  He  wished,  however,  ■  to  stamp  out  the  dangerous 
schism,  and  therefore  sent  to  the  Diet,  summoned  at  Nurem- 
berg January,  1524,  Campeggio,  an  able  legate,  with  strong 
representations  urging  the  execution  of  the  Edict  of  Worms. 
This  appeal  met  with  no  success ;  the  nuncio  was  obliged  to 
speak  very  moderately  to  get  a  hearing  at  all,  while  thousands 
of  persons,  among  them  many  members  of  the  Diet,  and  even 
a  sister  of  the  Emperor,  flouted  the  Pope  and  Campeggio  by 
taking  communion  in  both  kinds  from  the  hand  of  the  Lu- 
theran pastor,  Osiander.  All  that  could  be  wrung  from  the 
Estates  was  a  resolution  to  enforce  the  edict  as  far  as  they  were 
able,  a  nullifying  qualification.  In  return  they  demanded  an 
immediate  catling  of  a  free  council  of  the  Church  to  meet  at 
Spires  to  compose  the  religious  differences. 

The  year  1525  was  the  hardest  through  which  the  young 
movement  had  to  go.   The  Peasants' War  alienated  many  of 


the  nobles  from  the  fermenting  doctrine,  and  the  Reform- 
er's harshness  to  the  poor  rebels  shook  his  popularity  with 
the  people.  In  the  very  midst  of  the  tumult,  on  May  5,  the 
Elector  Frederic  died.  He  was  buried  in  his  favorite  church 
at  Wittenberg  by  the  famous  subject  with  whom  he  had  never 
spoken  and  whom  he  rarely  saw.  On  May  23,  Luther  writes 
to  Riihel :  — 

My  gracious  lord  departed  this  life  in  the  enjoyment  of  his  full 
reason,  taking  the  sacrament  in  both  kinds  and  without  supreme 
unction.  We  buried  him  without  masses  or  vigils,  but  yet  in  a  fine 
noble  manner.  Several  stones  were  found  in  his  lungs  and  three  (won- 
derful to  relate)  in  his  gall,  in  fact  he  died  of  the  stone.  .-  .  .  The 
(signs  of  his  death  were  a  rainbow  which  Melanchthon  and  I  saw  one 
night  last  winter  over  Lochau,  and  a  child  born  here  at  Wittenberg 
without  a  head,  and  another  with  feet  turned  around. 

Though  Frederic's  talents  were  not  of  the  dazzling  order,  he 
had  certainly  shown  consummate  ability  in  protecting  the  Wit- 
tenberg monk  during  the  crucial  early  years.  Though  he  was  too 
prudent  to  flaunt  his  advanced  views  in  the  face  of  the  world, 
there  can  be  no  doubt  that  at  heart  he  was  a  convinced  dis- 
ciple of  the  new  teaching.  His  subject  recognized  and  often 
spoke  highly  of  his  first  patron  :  — 

When  the  genius  of  a  financier,  a  statesman,  and  a  hero  concur  in 
the  same  prince,  it  is  a  gift  of  God.  Such  an  one  was  Frederic. 

He  was,  indeed,  very  wise.  He  took  care  of  the  administration  him- 
self and  did  not  leave  everything  to  a  pack  of  fools,  for  he  said : 
"  While  I  am  alive  I  will  be  ruler." 

He  was  succeeded  by  his  brother  John  the  Steadfast,  a  less 
able  but  more  open  devotee  of  the  Evangelic  faith.  With  his 
accession  the  Lutheran  Church  became  the  dominant  one. 
Spalatin,  on  the  death  of  his  master,  retired  from  the  chap- 
laincy of  the  court  and  was  appointed  to  the  pastorate  of  the 
first  church  at  the  capital,  Altenburg.  He  remained  the  con- 
fidant and  adviser  of  the  new  elector,  and  did  invaluable  service 
to  the  cause  by  representing  the  Reformer's  ideas  at  court. 
There  still  existed  a  strong  Catholic  opposition,  composed 
mostly  of  nobles  who  feared  the  new  doctrines,  that  they  re- 


garded  as  subversive.  Indeed  Luther  feared  to  come  to  his 
friend  Spalatin's  wedding  at  Altenburg  on  account  "of  the 
ignoble  crowd  of  nobles  raging  against  me."  He  even  said  that 
he  felt  safer  under  the  old  elector  who  did  not  openly  profess 
the  gospel  than  under  the  new  one  who  did. 

The  first  Diet  after  John's  accession,  that  of  Augsburg,  1525, 
proved  small  and  abortive,  but  that  which  met  at  Spires  in 
June,  1526,  was  described  by  Spalatin  as  the  boldest  and  freest 
ever  held.  Many  innovations  were  suggested  by  the  liberal 
majority,  which  Ferdinand,  the  Emperor's  brother  and  lieuten- 
ant, vainly  tried  to  obstruct.  The  Estates  passed  a  decree 
(known  as  the  Recess  of  Spires),  providing  that  in  matters  of 
faith  each  state  should  act  as  it  could  answer  to  God  and  the 
Emperor.  This  was  in  effect  a  declaration  of  entire  religious 
liberty,  not  indeed  for  each  individual,  but  for  each  state  of 
the  Empire. 

The  division  of  Saxony  between  the  Ernestine  and  Albertine 
branches  of  the  house  of  Wettin  has  already  been  described. 
As  the  strongest  support  for  the  Lutherans  came  from  the 
former,  so  the  most  determined  opposition  to  them  came  from 
the  latter  during  the  lifetime  of  Duke  George  the  Bearded. 
This  prince  had  heard  the  Leipsic  debate  in  1519,  and  had  been 
shocked  by  the  Wittenberger's  open  avowal  of  a  position  rer 
garded  as  heretical ;  for  the  next  twenty  years,  until  his  death 
in  1539,  he  was  the  ablest  and  most  active  of  the  Reformer's 
opponents.  Though  both  a  moral  and  a  sincere  man,  not  bigoted 
according  to  the  standards  of  the  age,  Luther  regarded  him, 
on  account  of  his  refusal  to  accept  the  "  gospel,"  as  the  very 
instrument  of  Satan.  The  prince  greatly  provoked  him  in  1522 
by  sending  a  complaint  to  the  Imperial  Council,  and  by  exclud- 
ing the  German  New  Testament  from  his  lands.  In  March  of 
this  year  the  Reformer  wrote  a  good  friend,  Hartmuth  von 
Kronberg,  alluding  to  "  the  straw  and  paper  tyranny  "  of  cer- 
tain persons  otherwise  designated  as  "  bladders."  Hartmuth 
promptly  published  the  letter,  filling  in  the  blank  with  the 
name  of  the  duke.  To  a  polite  inquiry  from  George  about  the 
authorship  of  the  obnoxious  pamphlet,  the  writer  thought  fit  to 
return  the  following  insulting  response  :  — 



Wittenberg,  January  3,  1523. 
Instead  of  greeting  I  wish  you  would  stop  raging  and  roaring 
against  God  and  against  his  Christ.  Ungracious  Prince  and  Lord ! 
I  received  your  Disgrace's  letter  with  the  pamphlet  or  letter  I  wrote 
Hartmuth  von  Kronberg,  and  have  had  read  to  me  with  especial 
care  the  part  of  which  your  Disgrace  complains  as  injurious  to  your 
soul,  honor,  and  reputation.  The  epistle  has  been  printed  at  "Witten- 
berg and  elsewhere.  As  your  Disgrace  desires  to  know  what  position 
I  take  in  it,  I  briefly  answer  that  as  far  as  your  Disgrace  is  concerned, 
it  is  the  same  to  me  whether  my  position  is  standing,  lying  down, 
sitting  or  running.  For  when  I  act  or  speak  against  your  Disgrace,  be 
it  secretly  or  openly,  I  intend  it  as  right,  and  (God  willing)  will  have 
it  taken  so.  God  will  find  the  needful  power.  For  if  your  Disgrace 
were  in  earnest,  and  did  not  so  ignobly  lie  about  my  coming  too  near 
your  soul,  honor,  and  reputation,  you  would  not  so  shamefully  hurt 
and  persecute  Christian  truth.  This  is  not  the  first  time  that  I  am 
belied  and  evilly  entreated  by  your  Disgrace,  so  that  I  have  more 
cause  than  you  to  complain  of  injuries  to  soul,  honor,  and  reputation. 
But  I  pass  over  all  that,  for  Christ  commands  me  to  do  good  even  to 
my  enemies,  which  I  have  hitherto  done  with  my  poor  prayers  to 
God  for  your  Disgrace.  I  offer  to  serve  your  Disgrace  in  anything  I 
can,  save  in  what  is  wrong.  If  you  despise  my  offer  I  can  do  no  more, 
and  shall  not  tremble  for  a  mere  bladder,  God  willing.  May  he  lighten 
your  Disgrace's  eyes  and  heart  and  please  to  make  me  a  gracious, 
kind  prince  of  you.  Amen. 

Martin  Luther, 

by  the  grace  of  God  Evangelist  at  Wittenberg. 

Duke  George,  naturally  still  more  antagonized  by  such  a  let- 
ter, endeavored  by  making  strong  diplomatic  representations  to 
his  cousins  to  force  the  author  to  apologize.  For  a  long  time 
Luther  steadily  refused  to  do  this,  but  about  three  years  later 
he  thought  that  the  time  was  propitious  for  a  reconciliation, 
and  accordingly  wrote  his  old  enemy  with  that  view.  What 
decided  him  to  do  so  is  not  clear ;  perhaps  a  sense  of  his  weak- 
ened position  at  this  time  made  him  more  conciliatory:  — 



(Wittenberg,)  December  21,  1525. 

...  As  I  observe  that  your  Grace  does  not  turn  from  your  dis- 
favor, I  am  minded  once  more  to  approach  your  Grace,  perhaps  for 
the  last  time,  with  this  humble,  affectionate  letter.  It  looks  to  me  as 
if  God  would  soon  take  one  of  us  away,  and  so  makes  it  desirable 
that  Duke  George  and  Luther  should  speedily  become  friends.  .  .  . 

I  fall  at  your  Grace's  feet  and  beg  you  in  utter  humility  to  leave 
off  persecuting  my  doctrine.  Not  that  much  harm  can  come  to  me 
through  your  Grace's  persecution,  for  I  have  little  to  lose  but  my  poor 
body.  .  .  .  Truly  I  have  a  greater  enemy  than  you,  namely,  the  devil 
and  his  angels.  .  .  .  Persecution  has  greatly  helped  me  and  I  thank 
my  enemies  for  it.  If  your  Grace's  misfortunes  were  pleasant  to  me, 
which  they  are  not,  I  would  irritate  you  still  more  and  provoke  you 
to  persecute  me  more.  ...  Of  my  doctrine  I  can  only  say  that  it 
speaks  for  itself  and  does  not  need  my  exhortation  to  recommend  it. 
.  .  .  Let  not  your  Grace  despise  my  humble  person,  for  God  once 
spoke  through  an  ass.  .  .  . 

Except  by  preaching  my  doctrine  I  beg  to  know  how  I  have  inad- 
vertently hurt  your  Grace.  I  forgive  from  my  heart  what  your  Grace 
has  done  to  hurt  me,  and  I  will  pray  the  Lord  to  forgive  you  what  you 
have  done  against  his  Word.  .  .  .  Let  me  inform  your  Grace  that  I 
have  always  hitherto  prayed  for  your  Grace,  and  now  write  this  letter 
in  hopes  of  avoiding  the  necessity  of  praying  against  your  Grace,  for 
although  we  are  a  poor  little  flock,  yet  should  we  pray  against  you 
...  we  know  that  nothing  good  would  happen  to  you.  .  .  .  Your 
Grace  might  then  learn  that  it  is  a  different  thing  to  fight  against 
Luther  from  fighting  against  Munzer.  .  .  . 

Your  Grace's  humble,  devoted  servant, 

Martin  Luther. 

This  missive  reached  its  destination  on  Christmas  and  was 
answered  on  December  28  "for  a  New  Year's  gift."  The  Duke 
recalls  the  Kronberg  episode,  with  the  letter  of  1523,  and  re- 
bukes the  Reformer  for  "  reviling  us  with  slippery  words,  the 
like  of  which  yon  will  not  find  in  the  Bible,  by  which  example 
you  justify  yourself."  Moreover,  "We  heard  you  debate,  and 
when  accused  by  Eck  of  being  a  patron  of  the  Hussites,  blus- 
teringly  deny  the  charge,  although  you  asserted  that  certain 


articles  of  Huss,  for  which  he  was  condemned,  were  right 
Christian.  Then,  acting  as  a  friend,  we  had  a  private  interview 
with  you."  In  conclusion:  "My  dear  Luther,  keep  the  gospel 
you  have  drawn  from  under  the  bushel,  we  will  stand  by  the 
gospel  of  Christ  as  the  Church  holds  it,  so  help  us  God !  " 

The  hostility  of  Duke  George  to  the  new  faith  was  more  than 
balanced  by  the  adherence  of  his  son-in-law.  After  the  death  of 
Frederic  of  Saxony,  the  ablest  champion  of  Lutheranism  was 
Philip,  Landgrave  of  Hesse.  His  enterprise  and  ambition  made 
him  a  great  contrast  to  the  cautious,  diplomatic  elector.  Early 
left  fatherless,  he  had  been  declared  of  age  by  his  guardian, 
the  Emperor  Maximilian,  at  thirteen.  Four  years  later  he  had 
met  Luther  at  the  Diet  of  Worms,  and,  attracted  by  the  monk's 
courage,  had  wished  him  godspeed.  In  spite  of  the  alliance  with 
Duke  George,  whose  daughter  Christina  he  married  in  1523, 
he  heartily  embraced  the  new  faith  and  entered  into  the  league 
of  Torgau,  with  Electoral  Saxony  and  other  states,  for  its  sup- 
port. The  suppression  of  the  successive  revolts  of  the  knights 
and  of  the  peasants  having  been  largely  due  to  his  ability,  he 
had  conceived  high  ambitions  for  extending  his  religion  and  for 
his  personal  aggrandizement. 

In  1528  a  plot  almost  precipitated  a  general  war,  to  which, 
perhaps,  he  would  not  have  been  averse  as  a  means  to  these 
ends.  Such  a  conflict  he  may  have  regarded  as  inevitable ;  at 
any  rate  he  became  convinced  that  there  was  an  understanding 
between  the  supporters  of  the  old  faith  to  suppress  the  new 
heresy  and  expropriate  himself  and  the  Elector  of  Saxony.  His 
suspicions  were  confirmed  by  an  ex-counsellor  of  Duke  George, 
Dr.  Otto  von  Pack,  who  brought  the  Landgrave  a  document 
purporting  to  be  a  treaty  between  Ferdinand  and  a  number  of 
Catholic  princes  to  extirpate  Luther  and  his  followers,  and  if 
necessary  eject  Philip  and  John  the  Steadfast  from  their  re- 
spective domains.  Though  a  forgery,  this  document  concurred 
so  aptly  with  the  Landgrave's  suspicions  that,  never  doubting  it, 
he  at  once  communicated  its  contents  to  the  equally  unsuspect- 
ing Elector  and  Luther.  Hesse  armed  forthwith  and  began  a 
campaign  against  one  of  the  bishops  named  in  the  treaty,  and 
forced  him  to  pay  an  indemnity.  Philip  urged  John  to  do  the 


same,  but  at  Luther's  advice  the  Elector  first  consulted  the 
Imperial  Executive  Council  and  questioned  Duke  George.  Ex- 
planations were  simultaneously  offered  from  all  sides  that  no- 
thing was  known  of  the  treaty.  Philip,  who  has  sometimes  been 
charged  with  being  the  instigator  of  the  whole  affair,  gave  up 
his  suspicions  with  the  utmost  reluctance.  Neither  was  the 
Reformer  ever  convinced  by  the  official  dementis,  but  believed 
to  his  dying  day  that,  treaty  or  no  treaty,  the  conspiracy  had 
actually  existed.  Of  it  he  wrote  :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  June  14, 1528. 
Grace  and  peace.  You  know  more  news  than  I  can  tell  you.  You 
see  what  a  commotion  this  confederacy  of  wicked  princes  has  caused. 
They  deny  it,  to  be  sure,  but  I  consider  Duke  George's  extremely 
cool  denial  as  equivalent  to  a  confession.  Let  them  protest  as  they 
please,  I  know  what  I  know ;  that  confederacy  is  no  mere  chimaera, 
though  it  is  a  most  monstrous  monster.  .  .  .  May  God  confound  that 
worst  of  fools  [Duke  George]  who,  like  Moab,  boasts  more  than  he 
can  do  and  waxes  proud  beyond  his  power.  We  shall  pray  against 
those  homicides ;  hitherto  we  have  spared  them,  but  if  they  try  any- 
thing again  we  shall  pray  God  and  exhort  our  princes  to  make  them 
perish  without  quarter,  inasmuch  as  those  insatiable  blood-suckers  will 
not  rest  until  they  make  Germany  reek  with  gore.  .  .  . 

This  letter  was  indiscreetly  shown  by  Link  to  friends,  one  of 
whom  sent  a  copy  of'  it  to  Duke  George.  The  insulted  prince 
wrote  imperiously  to  Luther,  asking  him  if  he  had  sent  the  ob- 
noxious missive  to  Link.  The  Reformer  replied  on  October  31, 
saying  that  he  would  answer  neither  yes  nor  no,  and  begging  that 
in  future  he  be  left  untroubled  by  such  communications.  The 
Duke  complained  to  the  Elector,  and  answered  in  a  printed 
letter  of  November.  In  reply  to  this,  Luther  published,'  in 
December,  an  article  On  Secret  and  Stolen  Letters,  vehemently 
accusing  his  adversary  of  theft  of  the  mails,  and  bidding  him 
find  out  from  the  man  who  sent  him  the  letter  what  he  wanted 
to  know  about  it.  George  answered  again,  in  January,  1529, 
but  the  altercation  was  carried  on  no  further  until  a  new  cause 
kindled  the  old  hatred. 


Though  the  Kecess  of  Spires  certainly  did  not  intend  to 
legalize  the  Reformation,  nevertheless  it  was  a  considerable 
gain  to  the  Evangelic  party,  giving  them  the  possibility  of  a 
wide  interpretation,  at  their  own  risk,  of  the  course  of  action 
for  which  they  would  be  answerable  to  God  and  the  Emperor. 
Charles  had  strictly  forbidden  the  Estates  to  meddle  with  the 
religious  question,  and  after  passing  the  Recess  they  had  sent 
him  a  humble  petition  for  more  liberty.  Had  he  been  able  to 
enforce  the  Edict  of  Worms  and  stamp  out  the  heresy  at  once, 
he  would  certainly  have  done  so,  but  he  was  for  many  years  too 
much  entangled  with  foreign  wars  to  venture  strong  measures 
against  powerful  subjects.  When,  by  the  victory  of  Pavia, 
February  24,  1525,  he  had  defeated  the  rival  Valois,  and  by 
the  sack  of  Rome,  May,  1527,  he  had  temporarily  mastered  the 
Pope,  he  still  had  an  arduous  task  before  him  in  the  conflict 
with  the  Turks.  At  Mohacs,  in  August,  1526,  Sultan  Suliman 
had  routed  the  Hungarian  army,  and  slain  its  king.  The  im- 
minent danger  of  an  invasion  of  Germany  was  not  averted 
until  the  Turks  were  repulsed  at  Vienna,  in  October,  1529. 
For  a  moment  it  looked  as  if  the  mutual  animosities  of  the 
Christians  would  be  buried  in  their  fear  and  detestation  of  the 
common  foe.  Luther  was  strongly  in  favor  of  such  a  course  and 
took  pains  to  clear  himself  of  the  imputation  that  he  shared  the 
views  of  those  Anabaptists  who,  like  the  later  Quakers,  taught 
that  all  war  was  wrong.  This  he  did,  first  in  a  tract  entitled 
Whether  Soldiers  can  be  in  a  State  of  Grace  (1526),  in  which 
he  says :  — 

What  people  now  write  and  say  about  war  being  such  a  curse  is 
true.  But  we  should  remember  how  much  greater  a  curse  may  some- 
times be  avoided  by  war. 

Men  should  not,  indeed,  he  continues,  fight  in  a  cause  they 
know  to  be  wrong,  but  when  in  doubt  they  are  bound  to  follow 
their  sovereign,  on  whom  God  places  all  the  responsibility. 
This  pamphlet  he  followed  up  by  another  On  the  Turkish 
War,  which  he  dedicated  to  Philip  of  Hesse^  in  a  letter  dated 
October  9,  1528.  In  it  he  says :  — 

Certain  persons  have  been  begging  me  for  the  past  five  years  to 


stir  up  our  people  against  the  Turk,  and  now  as  he  is  actually  ap- 
proaching they  have  compelled  me  to  fulfil  this  duty.  I  regret  to  learn 
that  some  mistaken  preachers  in  Germany  instruct  the  people  not  to 
fight  against  the  Turk ;  some  are  so  silly  as  to  say  it  does  not  become 
a  Christian  to  bear  arms,  and  some  say  that  the  Germans  are  such  a 
wild  and  wicked  folk,  half  devil  and  half  man,  that  they  need  the 
Turk  to  rule  them.  All  the  blame  for  such  wicked  nonsense  is  put 
upon  Luther  and  upon  my  Evangelic  doctrine,  just  as  I  had  to  bear 
the  blame  of  the  Peasants'  War,  and  of  all  the  rest  of  the  evil  in  the 
world,  although  my  accusers  know  that  their  charges  are  false.  .  .  . 
I  dedicate  this  book  to  your  Grace  as  a  powerful,  famous  prince, 
both  to  make  it  more  widely  read  and  to  give  it  greater  influence 
with  other  princes  if  it  comes  to  a  campaign  against  the  infidel.  .  .  . 

Philip  was  not,  however,  convinced  by  the  arguments  of  the 
Reformer.  He  was  one  of  the  first  to  suggest  that  pressure  be 
brought  to  bear  on  the  Emperor  by  refusal  of  supplies  for  this 
war.  If  anything  could  justify  such  an  attitude  it  was  the  hard 
position  in  which  the  Evangelic  leaders  found  themselves  at  the 
Diet  of  Spires  in  1529.  The  Catholic  majority  here  passed  a  de- 
cree, called  a  Recess,  most  unfavorable  to  the  reformers.  All 
Catholic  States  were  commanded  to  execute  the  persecuting 
Edict  of  Worms,  although' toleration  for  adherents  of  the  old  faith 
was  demanded  from  Lutheran  States.  The  governments  of  both 
religions  were  to  refuse  toleration  to  any  new  doctrine,  a  pro- 
vision aimed  both  at  Zwingli  and  the  Anabaptists ;  finally  no 
prince  should  take  another's  subjects  under  his  protection.  The 
Recess  as  a  whole  was  intended  to  prevent  further  growth  of  the 
Lutheran  Church  and  all  toleration  of  other  reformed  sects.  It 
called  forth  from  the  minority  of  the  Estates  the  celebrated  Pro- 
test from  which  the  name  Protestant  is  derived.  In  this  pro- 
clamation the  Lutheran  princes  and  cities  declared  that  they 
could  not  in  conscience  abide  by  the  provisions  of  the  Recess 
and  appealed  to  the  Emperor  to  annul  them. 

As  Charles  was  far  from  inclined  to  accede  to  their  wishes, 
the  question  soon  came  up  in  a  practical  form  whether  it  were 
lawful  to  resist  him  by  force.  To  decide  this  point  a  congress  of 
the  protesting  princes  was  held  at  Nuremberg  in  January,  1530. 
Luther's  opinion  had  been  previously  asked  and  given  to  the 


effect  that  armed  resistance  of  the  Emperor  by  individual  states 
was  tantamount  to  rebellion.  Philip  of  Hesse  was  too  ambitious 
to  be  content  with  this  answer :  he  voted  not  only  to  resist  the 
Emperor  but  to  call  in  the  national  enemy  France  ;  failing  this 
he  proposed  as  next  best  to  refuse  Charles  military  aid  against 
the  Turks.  He  tried  to  get  Luther's  support  in  this  measure,  but 
with  little  success.  The  reply  he  received  shows  how  little  polit- 
ical were  the  Reformer's  thoughts ;  nay,  what  a  dislike,  almost 
contempt,  he  entertained  for  temporal  means  of  religious  pro- 
paganda :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  December  16,  1529. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Serene,  highborn  Prince,  gracious  Lord. 
The  messenger  has  just  brought  your  Grace's  letter,  informing  me  what 
unrighteous  plots  are  brewed  by  the  priests  and  the  Emperor.  I  trust  in 
God,  who  boasts  in  the  Psalter  that  he  makes  nought  the  plans  of  god- 
less princes  and  peoples,  that  he  will  hear  us  now  and  make  these  plans, 
too,  come  to  nought.  My  hope  is  confident,  because-those  priests  boast 
loudly  and  rely  on  the  Emperor  and  on  human  help  and  do  not  call  on 
God  nor  ask  after  him.  May  God  guard  us  from  relying  on  our  wis- 
dom and  strength  and  make  us  desire  his  help  and  wait  on  it ;  then 
it  will  certainly  come.  Your  Grace  asks  me  to  advise  my  sovereign  not 
to  give  the  Emperor  help  against  the  Turks  until  a  general  peace  is 
made.  I  do  not  know,  and  have  never  cared  to  inquire  what  was  done 
at  Spires  and  at  Schmalkal&en,  and  so  at  this  time  I  am  unable  to  an- 
swer you ;  but  if  my  advice  is  asked,  I  will,  with  God's  aid,  give  it 
to  the  best  of  my  ability,  and  pray  God  that  in  this  matter  of  binding 
consciences  his  will  and  not  that  of  the  princes  may  be  done.  Amen. 
I  commend  your  Grace  to  Christ.  Amen. 

Martin  Luther. 



Persecution  of  the  Lutherans  was  first  felt  in  the  Netherlands. 
It  was  bitter  to  the  founder  of  the  new  Church  to  hear  that  two 
of  his  followers  arrested  for  heresy  had  recanted.  On  June  27, 
1522,he  wrote  Staupitz  that  one  of  them,  James  Probst,  deserved 
to  lose  his  life  on  account  of  his  damnable  recantation.  But  the 
inquisitors  soon  found  men  of  sterner  stuff,  and  on  July  1, 1523, 
they  burned  two  young  men  at  Brussels  for  their  faith.  When 
the  Wittenberg  reformer  heard  of  their  fate  tears  started  to  his 
eyes  and  he  murmured  that  he  had  not  been  found  worthy  to 
suffer  for  Christ.  This  mood  yielded  to  one  of  spiritual  joy  which 
found  rich  expression  in  a  hymn  describing  the  heroic  death  of 
the  martyrs  and  in  a  letter  to  their  countrymen :  — 


(Wittenberg,  July  ?  1523.) 
Praise  and  thanks  be  to  the  Father  of  all  mercy,  who  at  this  time 
lets  us  see  his  wonderful  light,  hitherto  hidden  on  account  of  our  sins 
while  we  were  compelled  to  submit  to  the  terrible  power  of  Antichrist. 
But  now  the  time  has  come  when  the  voice  of  the  turtle  is  heard  in  the 
land,  and  flowers  appear  on  the  earth.  Of  what  joy,  dear  friends,  have 
you  been  participants,  you  who  have  been  the  first  to  witness  unto  us. 
For  it  has  been  given  unto  you  before  all  the  world  not  only  to  hear 
the  gospel  and  to  know  Christ  but  to  be  the  first  to  suffer,  for  Christ's 
sake,  shame  and  injury,  wrong  and  distress,  imprisonment  and  death. 
Now  you  have  become  full  of  fruit  and  so  strong  that  you  have  watered 
the  cause  with  your  blood.  For  among  you  those  two  precious  jewels  of 
Christ,  Henry  and  John,  have  held  their  lives  of  no  account  for  Christ's 
Word.  Oh  how  miserably  were  those  two  souls  condemned,  but  how 
gloriously  with  eternal  joy  will  they  meet  Christ  and  justly  condemn 
those  by  whom  they  were  unjustly  condemned  !  .  .  .  How  welcome 
was  that  fire  which  helped  them  from  this  sinful  life  to  eternity,  from 
this  ignominy  to  everlasting  dominion !  .  .  .  And  although  our  ad- 


versaries  will  cry  out  that  those  saints  were  Hussites,  Wiclifites,  and 
Lutherans,  we  should  not  wonder  but  rather  let  this  strengthen  us  the 
more,  for  Christ,  too,  had  a  cross  and  slanderers.  Our  judge  is  not  far 
off,  who  will  give  another  judgment;  of  that  we  are  certain.  .  .  . 

While  animating  his  cohorts  to  the  fray,  the  captain  was 
straining  every  nerve  to  supply  an  organization  and  discipline 
adequate  to  their  needs.  On  returning  from  the  Wartburg  he 
had  found  things  in  great  confusion  and  his  first  task  was  to 
restore  order.  The  old  form  of  service  with  slight  alterations 
was  reestablished  in  the  parish  church.  Communion  was  admin- 
istered in  one  or  in  both  kinds  according  to  the  preference  of 
the  recipient ;  and  the  only  change  in  the  mass  was  the  omission 
of  the  words  purporting  to  change  the  elements  into  Christ's 
body  and  blood,  an  alteration  made  easy,  as  the  Reformer  re- 
marked, by  the  fact  that  the  parishioners  did  not  know  Latin 
and  hence  could  not  perceive  it.  A  like  moderation  was  used  in 
respect  to  images ;  believers  were  discouraged  from  praying  to 
the  saints,  but  the  heads  of  neither  the  images  nor  their  vener- 
ators were  broken  as  under  the  Carlstadt  regime. 

But  with  time  a  new  and  improved  service  was  introduced. 
An  important  change,  made  as  early  as  1524,  was  the  use  of 
the  vernacular  instead  of  the  learned  language  in  the  house 
of  God.  In  1526,  under  the  name  of  German  Mass,  Luther 
published  an  Evangelic  plan  for  public  worship,  consisting  of  the 
Lord's  Prayer,  the  Creed,  the  singing  of  hymns,  the  reading  of 
the  Bible,  and  a  sermon.  In  the  preface  he  carefully  guards 
against  the  danger  of  having  this  service  turned  into  a  universal 
law ;  he  is  moved  to  write  it  by  the  general  demand  for  such 
a  work,  but  he  leaves  it  free  to  any  one  to  alter  or  improve  as 
lie  will. 

The  material  for  this  service  was  largely  furnished  by  Luther. 
In  translating  the  Bible  —  of  which  more  will  be  said  in  a  sep- 
arate chapter  —  the  foundation  for  the  exposition  of  the  Scrip- 
ture in  the  vernacular  was  laid.  More  extraordinary  is  the  fact 
that  seeing  the  need  of  good  German  hymns  the  Reformer  should 
have  written  them  himself.  It  is  one  of  the  most  surprising 
phenomena  in  literary  history  that  a  man  of  forty  should  sud- 
denly develop  considerable  poetic  talent  in  response  to  a  definite 


practical  requirement.  Yet  such  is  the  case.  In  the  last  days  of 
1523  he  began  to  collect  hymns,  to  write  them  himself,  and  to 
urge  his  friends  to  do  the  like.  The  next  year  the  fruit  of  his 
efforts  appeared  in  a  book  of  Spiritual  Songs  for  which  the 
tunes  were  supplied  or  adapted  from  older  ones,  by  a  local  com- 
poser, John  Walthen  This  contained  twenty-four  hymns,  of 
which  eighteen  are  by  Luther.  After  this  remarkable  outburst 
the  songs  came  more  slowly  but  never  ceased.  A  second  hymn- 
book,  printed  probably  in  February,  1528,  contained  four  new 
ones  by  Luther  including  Ein  Feste  Burg,  composed  during 
the  dark  days  of  illness  and  trial  in  the  preceding  year.  From 
time  to  time  new  hymns  by  the  same  author  are  known  to 
have  been  introduced  into  the  Wittenberg  service,  and  in  1543 
another  book  was  printed  with  several  recently  composed.  In  all 
there  are  extant  forty-two  hymns  from  the  Reformer's  pen,  and 
fifteen  other  bits  of  versification,  including  an  epitaph  for  his 
daughter,  some  verses  on  his  housekeeping,  and  several  lam- 

It  must  be  owned  that  much  of  this  verse  is  almost  without 
poetic  inspiration.  The  Ten  Commandments  and  the  Creed  are 
hardly  happy  subjects  for  this  treatment,  especially  when  the 
writer's  object  is  to  make  his  verse  as  literal,  that  is,  as  near 
prose,  as  possible.  Most  of  the  hymns  are  based  on  Psalms  or 
other  portions  of  Scripture ;  others  are  paraphrases  of  old  Latin 
hymns.  Little  of  the  Gothic  grandeur  of  these  latter  is  pre- 
served in  the  German  version,  the  language  of  which  is  highly 
popular.  In  the  instructions  sent  to  Spalatin  for  hymn- writing, 
early  in  1524,  the  author  reveals  his  own  principles.  "  Please 
omit  all  new-fangled  court  expressions,"  he  says,  "  for  to  win 
popularity  a  song  must  be  in  the  most  simple  and  common  lan- 
guage, although  the  words  should  be  good  and  apt,  and  the 
meaning  plain  and  as  nearly  like  the  original  as  possible.  The 
translation  may  be  free ;  only  keep  to  the  sense,  changing  the 
words  where  convenient.  I  have  not  as  much  talent  in  this 
direction  as  I  wish  I  had,  but  I  will  do  my  best." 

In  applying  these  principles  Luther  took  for  his  model  the 
ballad  poetry  so  popular  in  his  own  day,  and  many  of  his  songs 
vividly  recall  these  verses.    The  sing-song  meter,  the  common- 


place  expressions,  the  rough  rhymes  often  succeed  in  vulgariz- 
ing religion  rather  than  in  making  it  poetical.  But  this  is  not 
the  case  in  all  instances.  Poetry  is  the  language  of  strong  feel- 
ing, and  when  moved  to  the  depths  of  his  deep  nature  Luther 
produced  an  immortal  lyric.  Several  of  his  efforts  are  good ; 
one  is  really  great ;  the  battle  hymn  of  the  Evangelic  Church, 
the  Marseillaise,  as  Heine  called  it,  of  the  Keformation  :  — 

AIn  f  este  burg  ist  unser  Gott, 
ain  gutte  wor  un  waffen, 
Er  hilfft  uns  frey  aus  aller  not, 
Die  uns  yetzt  hat  betroff  en. 

Der  alt  bose  feynd, 

mitt  ernst  ers  yetzt  meint, 

gross  macht  un  vil  list 

sein  grausam  rustung  ist, 

auff  erd  ist  nicht  seins  gleichen.1 

Not  without  a  struggle  was  the  improved  form  of  public 
worship  introduced.  The  chief  opposition  came  from  the  vested 
interests  of  priests  holding  endowed  masses.  There  were  a  large 
number  of  these  in  the  Castle  Church  at  Wittenberg  and  also 
in  one  of  the  churches  at  Altenburg,  the  capital  of  Ernestine 
Saxony.  From  1523-26  the  Reformer's  letters  are  full  of  fierce 
denunciation  of  these  "  priests  of  Baal,"  whom,  however,  he  was 
unable  to  oust  on  account  of  Frederic's  settled  policy  of  laissez- 
faire  in  religious  matters.  In  a  published  letter  to  Bartholomew 
von  Starenberg,  of  September  1, 1523,  after  consoling  him  for  the 
loss  of  his  wife  he  earnestly  warns  him  against  having  masses 
or  vigils  said  for  her  soul,  "  for  they  are  unchristian  things 
greatly  angering  God.  Any  one  can  see  that  there  is  no  serious 
faith  in  them  but  only  useless  mumbling.  We  must  pray  differ- 
ently to  be  heard  by  God,  for  such  services  are  a  mockery  of 
him  .  .  .  instituted  by  priests  for  the  sake  of  lucre." 

1  God  is  to  us  a  fortress  strong, 
A  weapon  never  failing, 
He  helps  us  freely  in  the  throng 
Of  mortal  ills  prevailing. 

Our  ancient  foe  accurst 
Now  means  to  do  his  worst, 
Great  craft  and  power  are  his 
And  armed  with  them  he  is 

On  earth  without  an  equal 


The  yictory  for  the  reformed  faith  was  not  entirely  won  until 
the  accession  of  John  the  Steadfast,  in  May,  1525,  brought 
Ernestine  Saxony  under  an  avowed  convert.  From  this  time 
forth  the  Evangelic  Church  was  the  dominant  religious  body 
within  that  territory ;  to  insure  its  supremacy  laws  were  passed 
abolishing  the  objectionable  rites  and  enforcing  uniformity  in 
the  churches.  Some  form  of  church  government  had  to  be  estab- 
lished, and  this  came  in  the  institution  of  a  system  of  visitation, 
first  suggested  by  John  Frederic  in  1524,  but  not  undertaken 
until  1527.  Able  and  educated  men,  among  them  Luther  and 
Melanchthon,  were  sent  around  to  the  various  parishes  to  see  that 
the  incumbents  were  competent,  to  arrange  for  the  finances,  and 
to  institute  the  reformed  services.  The  result  of  the  first  tour 
of  inspection  was  disheartening ;  many  of  the  priests  were  still 
attached  to  the  old  Church ;  most  of  them  were  very  ignorant,  one 
or  two  not  even  knowing  the  Ten  Commandments  or  the  Lord's 
Prayer,  and  some  were  immoral.  The  people,  too,  were  sunk  in 
abject  superstition  and  ignorance.  To  give  method  to  the  plan 
of  visitation  an  Instruction  was  drawn  up  in  1528  by  Melanch- 
thon and  Luther.  The  supervisors  were  to  instruct  the  priests 
in  doctrine,  with  especial  emphasis  upon  repentance ;  the  Ten 
Commandments  were  to  be  diligently  preached  ;  of  free  will  the 
people  were  to  be  told  that  a  man  had  the  power  of  choice  to  do 
good  or  evil,  but  that  this  power  availed  nothing  to  salvation. 
The  sacraments  and  services  of  the  Church  were  explained. 
Above  all  the  preachers  were  to  exhort  parents  to  send  their 
children  to  school,  and  a  proper  curriculum  was  suggested.  The 
first  class  was  to  learn  to  read  from  primers  with  the  alphabet, 
the  creed  and  certain  prayers  in  them  ;  next  they  should  be  taught 
to  write,  and  Latin  from  the  grammar  of  Donatus  and  the  Dis- 
ticha  Moralia  of  Dionysius  Cato,  and  the  elements  of  music. 
The  second  class  was  to  continue  music  and  to  read  iEsop's 
Fables  in  Latin,  and  selections  from  Erasmus'  Colloquies.  The 
method  was  to  be  that  recommended  by  Milton  a  century  later ; 
the  teacher  was  to  read,  translate,  and  explain  a  certain  por- 
tion of  the  text  one  day  for  the  class  to  recite  the  next.  Some 
poetry  was  to  be  learned  by  heart.  Proper  instruction  in  re- 
ligion was  to  be  given.  The  older  children  were  to  follow  up 


this  programme  with  Virgil,  Ovid,  Cicero,  music,  and  more 

—  On  education  Luther  relied  the  most.  What  is  the  use  of 
forcing  through  reforms  which  the  people  are  too  ignorant  to 
appreciate  or  even  to  want  ?  It  was  with  the  object  of  training 
men  and  women  in  his  ideas  that  early  in  1529  he  published  two 
of  his  most  influential  works,  the  Long  and  Short  Catechisms. 
The  former  came  out  in  April  under  the  title  German  Cate- 
chism, and  was  intended  to  supplement  the  German  Mass.  A  few 
weeks  later  appeared  the  Enchiridion, or  Short  Catechism,  which 
was  merely  an  abbreviation  and  simplification  of  the  previous 

Luther's  purpose  was  so  practical,  and  his  sources  so  obvi- 
ous, that  it  is  almost  needless  to  seek  for  precedents  for  his 
catechisms.  Nevertheless  it  is  interesting  to  know  that  he 
had  examples  in  the  instruction  given  to  catechumens  in  the 
mediaeval  Church.  Characteristics  of  his  work  are:  1.  There  is 
no  system  of  dogma  set  forth  in  technical  terms,  and  no  argu- 
mentation whatever.  2.  There  is  no  polemic  against  Rome  or 
against  the  sacramentarians,  a  contrast  to  the  contemporary 
and  subsequent  catechisms  of  other  Churches  and  leaders. 
3.  Theology  is  rescued  from  its  old,  stiff  forms  and  made  really 
simple  and  easy  of  comprehension. 

In  the  preface  to  the  smaller  work  the  author  begins  :  "  The 
lamentable,  miserable  need  which  I  saw  when  I  visited  the  par- 
ishes has  induced  me  to  compose  this  summary  of  Christian 
doctrine  in  short,  easy  form."  Good  Heavens !  how  little  the 
people,  and  even  the  pastors  know!  The  object  of  the  work  is 
partly  to  introduce  a  uniform  teaching  of  the  Creed,  Paternoster, 
and  sacraments  so  as  not  to  confuse  the  common  man,  but  it 
must  not  be  regarded  as  an  irrevocable  law.  The  people  are  free 
to  choose  another  form  if  they  prefer,  only  they  must  keep  to  it 
once  chosen.  The  longer  book  begins  with  an  earnest  exhorta- 
tion to  a  thorough  study  of  its  contents.  Let  not  any  one  think 
that  a  single  reading  is  sufficient,  but  let  him  con  it  by  heart 
and  read  it  every  day.  "  For  I  do  the  same,"  says  the  author ; 
"  like  a  child  I  study  it  every  day,  and  each  morning' that  I  have 
time  I  say  the  Decalogue,  the  Creed,  the  Lord's  Prayer,  and 


some  Psalms."  The  priests  are  exhorted  (in  the  Short  Cate- 
chism) to  explain  the  contents  to  the  people,  see  that  they  learn 
it  and  insist  that  they  attend  communion  at  least  four  times  a 

The  Ten  Commandments,  the  Creed,  and  the  Lord's  Prayer 
are  set  forth  and  explained  clause  by  clause.  In  expounding 
the  third  commandment  (as  he  numbers  it),  "  Remember  the 
Sabbath  day  to  keep  it  holy,"  the  Reformer  says  that  this  cere- 
monial law  was  only  given  to  the  Jews  and  that  Christians  are 
free  from  it ;  nevertheless  it  is  useful  to  rest  on  one  day  in  the 
week  for  natural  reasons  and  for  the  cultivation  of  the  spiritual 
life.  The  sacraments  of  baptism  and  the  Lord's  Supper  are 
explained.  In  a  later  edition  of  the  Short  Catechism,  of  1531, 
a  similar  explanation  of  penance  was  inserted,  with  a  form  of 
private  confession.  The  use  of  this,  however,  is  left  to  in- 
dividual judgment ;  if  a  man  does  not  know  that  he  has  com- 
mitted any  of  the  sins  mentioned,  which  is  stated  to  be  hardly 
possible,  he  may  receive  absolution  after  the  general  confession 
in  church. 

Forms  of  family  prayer  and  religious  instruction  are  given, 
with  blessing  and  grace  for  meal-times.  Certain  sayings  from 
Scripture  on  the  respective  duties  of  pastors,  husbands,  wives, 
parents,  children,  masters,  servants,  and  widows  are  set  forth. 

To  the  Small  Catechism  was  added  a  marriage  service,  a 
baptismal  service  and  form  of  private  confession  with  instruc- 
tions to  the  priest  as  to  how  to  treat  the  penitent.  Luther  re- 
garded marriage  more  as  a  civil  contract  than  as  a  religious 
matter,  and  expressly  states  that  each  country  may  follow  its 
own  customs  in  the  matter.  According  to  his  service  a  portion 
of  the  ceremony  took  place  in  the  evening,  the  couple  were 
then  led  to  the  bride  bed,  and  the  blessing  on  their  union  took 
place  the  following  morning.  In  this  Luther  but  followed  the 
custom  of  his  day.  The  baptismal  service  is  strikingly  different 
from  that  in  use  in  most  churches  now.  The  evil  spirit  was 
first  exorcised  from  the  child,  who  was  then  asked  a  number  of 
questions  on  its  religious  attitude,  answered  by  the  sponsors, 
of  whom  there  were  a  considerable  number. 

The  Catechism,  many  editions  of  which  were  printed  and 


rapidly  used  up,  exerted  an  enormous  influence,  and  is  still  the 
spiritual  pabulum  of  the  majority  of  Germans  as  well  as  of 
Lutherans  in  other  lands.  Its  author  had  a  justifiable  pride  in 
his  work.  He  once  declared  that  he  would  be  willing  for  all 
his  books  to  perish  save  the  Catechism  and  the  Unfree  Will. 
During  the  Diet  of  Augsburg,  in  the  summer  of  1530,  he  wrote 
the  Elector  that  thanks  to  this  simple  instruction  the  youth  of 
Saxony  now  understood  the  Bible  better  than  monks  and  nuns 
had  done  under  the  old  regime.  He  sums  up  the  position  to 
which  he  assigned  it  in  the  words :  "  It  is  a  right  Bible  for  the 

The  Evangelic  faith  spread  from  Saxony  to  neighboring 
lands,  the  first  of  which  was  Hesse.  Philip,  the  young  land- 
grave, set  about  the  conversion  of  his  subjects  with  character- 
istic promptness,  drawing  up  an  ordinance  in  1526  commanding 
the  adoption  of  the  Saxon  service  and  system  and  church 
visitation.  This  he  submitted  to  the  Wittenberg  professor. 
The  answer  is  highly  characteristic  of  the  Reformer.  He  had 
introduced  his  system  as  gradually  as  possible  in  his  own 
country,  and  distrusted  the  rapid  methods  of  Philip.  The  letter 
which  he  wrote  in  answer  to  the  Landgrave's  request  for  an 
opinion,  is  worthy,  in  its  statesmanship,  of  Burke. 


Wittenberg,  January  7,  1527. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Serene,  highborn  Prince,  gracious  Lord. 
To  the  request  which  your  Grace  makes  for  an  opinion  of  your  Ordin- 
ance, I  answer  unwillingly,  inasmuch  as  many  blame  us,  as  if  we  of 
Wittenberg  would  force  every  one  to  do  as  we  do,  although  we  know 
that  God  wills  otherwise  and  that  others  can  do  well  without  our  aid. 
But  to  oblige  your  Grace,  and  since  the  Ordinance  might  raise  an 
outcry  if  published  without  my  consent,  I  humbly  and  faithfully 
advise  you  not  to  allow  it  to  be  printed  at  this  time,  for  I  have  never 
had,  and  have  not  now,  sufficient  courage  to  pass  so  many  radical 
laws  at  once.  In  my  opinion  we  should  act  as  did  Moses,  who  only 
wrote  down  his  laws  after  they  had  been  put  in  practice  among  the 
people.  Your  Grace  should  provide  the  schools  with  good  teachers 
and  the  parishes  with  good  pastors,  and  begin  by  oral  command  and 


private  instruction  and  let  the  innovations  be  gradual  and  proceed  farther 
when  things  get  started  and  are  going  of  themselves.  Then  the  Ordin- 
ance could  be  published  and  all  priests  commanded  to  obey  it;  I 
know  well  and  have  learned  that  laws  passed  prematurely  are  seldom 
well  obeyed,  as  the  people  are  not  used  to  them  nor  ready  for  them, 
as  those  legislators  who  sit  apart  devising  laws  may  think.  Making 
laws  and  enforcing  them  are  vastly  different  things.  By  this  Ordin- 
ance you  would  change  much  arbitrarily.  But  when  some  of  the 
reforms  have  been  already  put  into  practice  it  will  be  easy  to  pass 
the  law.  Legislation  is  a  great,  noble,  comprehensive  thing,  and  can- 
not be  successful  without  the  spirit  of  God,  for  which  we  must  humbly 
pray.  Moderation  is  necessary ;  after  customs  are  rooted,  laws  will 
follow  of  themselves.  This  necessity  has  been  experienced  by  the 
greatest  law-givers ;  Moses,  Christ,  the  Romans,  and  the  Pope.  .  .  . 

Your  Grace's  devoted, 

Martin  Luther. 



The  tendency  of  Protestantism  to  split  up  into  manifold  sects 
has  often  been  noticed  and  explained.  When  once  individual 
judgment  is  set  up  against  authority,  all  the  revolting  leader's 
followers  will  claim  the  same  privilege  against  him.  Even  be- 
fore the  revolting  Church  had  made  its  position  secure  against 
Rome,  it  divided  into  many  sects.  Most  of  these  were  small,  and, 
though  holding  the  most  diverse  and  even  opposite  opinions, 
were  classed  together  under  the  name  of  Anabaptist ;  but  besides 
the  Lutheran  community  there  was  one  other  of  great  import- 
ance. Its  leader  was  Ulrich  Zwingli ;  the  doctrinal  difference 
of  the  two  Churches  was  on  the  eucharist. 

The  theory  of  the  Roman  Catholic  Church,  at  least  for  sev- 
eral centuries,  had  been  that  the  bread  and  wine  in  the  Lord's 
Supper  were  actually  turned  into  the  body  and  blood  of  Jesus, 
though  without  a  corresponding  change  in  the  accidents  of  taste, 
appearance,  and  so  forth ;  this  is  transubstantiation.  Luther's 
theory,  known  as  consubstantiation,  is  nearly  allied  to  it,  namely, 
that  though  there  was  no  actual  change,  yet  the  body  of  the 
Saviour  was  present  with  the  natural  bread  and  wine  as  fire  is  in 
red-hot  iron,  or  a  sword  in  a  sheath,  and  that  it  was  so  truly 
present  that  it  was  "  bitten  by  the  teeth  "  of  the  communicant. 
The  belief  adopted  by  Zwingli  and  most  of  the  other  Reformed 
Churches  was  that  the  rite  was  merely  commemorative  and  that 
the  body  and  blood  of  Christ  were  partaken  of  in  a  purely  figur- 
ative and  spiritual  sense. 

This  doctrine  came  to  Luther's  attention  soon  after  his  return 
from  the  Wartburg  (if  not  before)  in  the  writings  of  a  certain  r 
Honius,  in  those  of  the  Bohemian  Brethren,  and  in  the  pam- 
phlets of  Carlstadt,  who  taught  it,  along  with  his  other  advanced 
tenets,  while  Luther  was  away.  The  Reformer  speaks  of  it  in  his 
letter  to  the  Christians  of  Strassburg,  of  December  14,  1524,  as 
follows :  — 


I  freely  confess  that  if  Carlstadt  or  any  other  could  have  convinced 
me  five  years  ago  that  there  was  nothing  in  the  sacrament  but  mere 
bread  and  wine,  he  would  have  done  me  a  great  service.  I  was  sorely 
tempted  on  this  point  and  wrestled  with  myself  and  tried  to  believe 
that  it  was  so,  for  I  saw  that  I  could  thereby  give  the  hardest  rap  to  the 
papacy.  I  read  treatises  by  two  men  who  wrote  more  ably  in  defence  of 
the  theory  than  has  Dr.  Carlstadt  and  who  did  not  so  torture  the  Word 
to  their  own  imaginations.  But  I  am  bound ;  I  cannot  believe  as  they 
do ;  the  text  is  too  powerful  for  me  and  will  not  let  itself  be  wrenched 
from  the  plain  sense  by  argument. 

And  if  any  one  could  prove  to-day  that  the  sacrament  were  mere 
bread  and  wine,  he  would  not  much  anger  me  if  he  was  only  reason- 
able. (Alas  I  am  too  much  inclined  that  way  myself  when  I  feel  the  old 
Adam !)  But  Dr.  Carlstadt's  ranting  only  confirms  me  in  the  opposite 

Luther's  work  Against  the  Heavenly  Prophets  of  Images  and 
the  Sacrament  has  been  noticed  in  a  previous  chapter.  The 
second  half  of  it,  appearing  January,  1525,  was  entirely  on  the 
subject  of  the  sacrament.  This  work  was  not  particularly  suc- 
cessful ;  in  fact  it  seemed  rather  to  alienate  some  men  who  were 
hesitating  between  the  two  dogmas. 

The  controversy  might  have  fallen  into  oblivion,  especially 
after  the  disgrace  of  Carlstadt  and  Miinzer  in  the  Peasants' 
Revolt,  had  it  not  been  taken  up  by  one  of  the  ablest  men  of 
the  generation,  Ulrich  Zwingli. 

Born  at  Wildhaus,  Switzerland,  January  1,  1484,  he  had  re- 
ceived a  humanistic  education  and  entered  the  Church  in  1506. 
After  varied  experiences  as  an  army  chaplain  and  parish  priest, 
he  was  called  to  Zurich  in  December,  1519,  and  here,  quite  inde- 
pendently of  the  Wittenberg  movement,  he  began  a  similar  re- 
formation. He  at  once  protested  against  the  sale  of  indulgences 
and  with  success  ;  he  then  proceeded  to  other  reforms,  especially 
on  lines  suggested  by  the  writings  of  Erasmus,  whose  ardent 
admirer  he  was.  He  soon  rose  to  the  leading  position  in  the  city, 
and,  carrying  his  reform  further  than  had  Luther,  was  able,  in 
April,  1525,  to  abolish  the  mass  and  substitute  for  it  a  simple 
communion  service. 

The  wide  difference  between  the  personal  experiences  and 


careers  of  the  two  reformers  is  chiefly  accountable  for  the  di- 
vergence of  their  opinions.  The  German  had  gone  through  a 
rebirth  of  spiritual  anguish  which  made  the  forgiveness  of  sin 
the  central  point  of  his  theology  as  of  his  life  ;  the  Swiss  had 
never  felt  this  need  so  strongly ;  the  central  idea  of  his  theo- 
logy was  that  of  Christian  fellowship  fostered  by  the  analogy 
of  the  republican  freedom  of  the  canton.  Again,  Luther  was  at 
bottom  a  monk,  reasoning  with  the  depth,  and  also  with  some- 
thing of  the  limitations,  of  scholastic  philosophy  ;  Zwingli  was 
a  humanist,  anxious  only  to  get  at  the  exact  meaning  of  the 
Greek  Testament. 

It  is  possible  that  the  two  men  might  have  agreed  on  this 
point,  at  least  better  than  they  did,  had  it  not  been  for  the 
unfortunate  manner  in  which  Zwingli  first  crossed  Luther's 
horizon,  as  a  supporter  of  Carlstadt  and  "  the  ranters."  When 
the  division  of  the  two  became  recognized,  it  was  deepened 
by  the  proud  consciousness,  on  the  part  of  each  leader,  of  the 
independence  of  his  own  movement.  How  bitterly  Luther  felt 
against  men  whom  he  regarded  as  rebels  and  traitors  may  be 
seen  in  a  letter  :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  January  20,  1526. 

Grace  and  peace  in  the  Lord.  I  wrote  Duke  George 1  with  good 
hope,  but  am  deceived.  I  have  lost  my  humility  and  shall  not  write 
him  another  word.  Indeed  I  am  not  moved  by  his  lies  and  his  curses. 
Why  should  I  not  bear  with  him  who  am  compelled  to  bear  with 
these  sons  of  my  body,  my  Absaloms,  who  withstand  me  so  furiously  ? 
They  are  scourges  of  the  sacrament  compared  with  whose  madness 
the  papists  are  mild.  I  never  understood  before  how  evil  a  spirit  is 
Satan,  nor  did  I  comprehend  Paul's  words  about  spiritual  wickedness. 
But  Christ  lives.  Now  Theobald  Billican,  pastor  at  Nordlingen,  writes 
against  Zwingli,  Carlstadt,  and  CEcolampadius.  God  raises  up  the 
faithful  remnant  against  the  new  heretics ;  we  greatly  hope  that 
Christ  will  bless  the  undertaking.  I  would  write  against  them  if  I  had 
time,  but  first  I  wish  to  see  what  Billican  does. 

I  am  glad  that  my  book  on  the  Unfree  Will  pleased  you,  but  I 
expect  the  same  or  worse  from  Erasmus  as  from  Duke  George. 
1  December,  1525,  cf.  p.  223. 



That  reptile  will  feel  himself  taken  by  the  throat  and  will  not  be 
moved  by  my  moderation.  God  grant  that  I  be  mistaken,  but  I  know 
the  man's  nature  ;  he  is  an  instrument  of  Satan  unless  God  change 
him.  I  have  no  other  news.  Farewell  and  pray  for  me. 

Martin  Luther. 

In  a  similar  strain  the  Reformer  says  in  his  Answer  to  the 
King  of  England's  Libel  (1527)  :  "  Hitherto  I  have  suffered  in 
all  ways.  But  not  until  now  did  my  Absalom,  my  dear  son, 
hunt  and  shame  his  father  David.  My  Judas  [Zwingli]  had 
not  yet  shamed  the  disciples  and  betrayed  his  master ;  but  now 
he  has  done  his  worst  on  me." 

The  new  "  Judas  "  had  simply  published,  in  February,  1526, 
a  pamphlet  entitled  True  and  False  Eeligion,  and  followed  it 
up  soon  after  with  A  Clear  Explanation  of  Christ's  Supper. 
Along  with  cogent  argument  in  support  of  his  position  that  the 
elements  were  mere  bread  and  wine,  the  author  alleges  that  the 
truth  of  his  opinion  has  been  revealed  to  him  in  a  dream.  This 
method  of  proof  unfortunately  impressed  Luther  still  more 
deeply  with  the  idea  that  Zwingli's  "  spirit "  was  akin  to  that 
of  Miinzer  and  the  prophets  who  had  cultivated  dreams  with 
such  disastrous  results.  His  works  had  considerable  success, 
however ;  so  many  of  the  South  German  pastors  came  over  to 
the  Swiss  opinion  that  the  leader  was  able  to  prophesy  that 
within  three  years  all  Christendom  would  be  converted. 

Luther  replied  in  a  comprehensive  treatise,  entitled  That 
these  Words  of  Christ,  "  This  is  my  Body,"  still  stand  against 
the  Ranting  Spirits  (March,  1527).  The  greater  part  of  this 
book  is  a  proof  from  Scripture  that  the  words  quoted  in  the 
title  are  to  be  taken  literally.  The  theory  of  the  opposite  party, 
that  Christ's  body  cannot  be  in  the  bread  because  it  is  in 
heaven,  is  rebutted  by  showing,  from  mediaeval  philosophy,  that 
it  may  be  extended  through  space,  and  is,  in  fact,  omnipresent. 
Again,  a  careful  exegesis  of  John  vi,  63,  "  The  flesh  profiteth 
nothing,"  is  devoted  to  proving  that  Christ's  flesh  is  not  meant, 
as  supposed  by  the  Swiss.  Further  proofs  are  adduced  from 
other  passages  of  Scripture  and  from  the  fathers.  The  last 
part  of  the  book  is  devoted  to  a  practical  exposition  of  the  use, 
necessity,  and   significance   of  the  sacrament,  which  last,  in 


Luther's  opinion,  would  be  entirely  destroyed  if  the  consecrat- 
ing words  were  not  taken  literally. 

While  Luther  was  writing  this,  Zwingli  had  composed  two 
treatises,  A  Friendly  Exegesis  of  Christ's  Words,  and  A 
Friendly  Appeasement  and  Rebuttal,  the  former  in  Latin,  the 
latter  in  the  vernacular  (Friintliche  verglimpfung  und  abley- 
nung),  both  of  which  he  sent  to  his  opponent  with  a  letter  of 
April  1.  His  tone  was  pastoral,  not  to  say  pedagogical;  he 
seemed  to  instruct  Luther  in  calm  superiority  ;  though  perhaps 
he  intended  to  be  conciliatory  he  was  in  fact  extremely  irritat- 
ing to  the  older  man,  to  whom  he  said  :  "  You  have  produced 
nothing  on  this  subject  worthy  either  of  yourself  or  of  the 
Christian  religion,  and  yet  your  ferocity  daily  increases."  Lu- 
ther wrote  on  May  4  to  Wenzel  Link  :  "  Zwingli  has  sent  me 
his  foolish  book  and  a  letter  written  in  his  own  hand  worthy 
of  his  haughty  spirit.  So  gentle  was  he,  raging,  foaming,  and 
threatening,  that  he  seems  to  me  incurable  and  condemned  by 
manifest  truth.  —  And  my  comprehensive  book  has  profited 

In  the  mean  time  the  Swiss  received  the  last-named  work  of 
the  Wittenberg  professor.  They  were  greatly  exasperated  by 
its  violent  tone ;  Zwingli  writing  Vadian  on  May  4  "  that  its 
whole  contents  were  nothing  but  lies,  slander,  sycophancy,  and 

A  reply,  composed  by  Zwingli  and  GEcolampadius,  was  pub- 
lished in  June  under  the  title  That  these  Words  of  Christ, 
"  This  is  my  Body,"  still  have  the  same  old  Sense.  It  was  dedi- 
cated to  John,  Elector  of  Saxony. 

•  Luther  was  too  ill  to  read  it  at  once.  His  answer,  a  huge 
Confession  on  Christ's  Supper,  appeared  in  February,  1528.  He 
is  glad,  he  declares,  that  his  words  have  so  greatly  angered 
Satan,  by  which  sign  he  knows  that  they  have  done  much  good. 
He  goes  over  the  old  arguments  with  more  thoroughness  than 
before,  refuting  first  Zwingli's  philosophy  and  then  his  exegesis 
of  Scripture,  showing  that  he  contradicts  the  Bible,  the  fathers, 
and  himself. 

The  book  only  increased  the  rage  without  shaking  the  con- 
victions of  the  sacramentarians.  Capito  wrote  that  Luther  had 


hurt  himself  by  it ;  Zwingli  judged  that  it  was  "  a  denial  of 
what  Luther  had  said  before,  and  a  fog  through  which  Christ's 
mystery  could  not  be  discerned."  He,  and  CEcolampadius,  pub- 
lished in  one  book  Two  Answers  to  Martin  Luther's  Book.  It 
was  dedicated,  in  a  letter  dated  July  1,  1528,  to  the  Elector 
John  and  the  Landgrave  Philip  of  Hesse,  whom  Zwingli  re- 
fused to  salute  with  the  customary  titles  "highborn"  and 
"  serene,"  "because,"  as  he  explained  to  them,  "you  are  only 
highborn  in  comparison  to  the  world  and  the  flesh,  but  before 
God  you  are  mean ;  and  serene  [German  Durchlaut,  literally 
transparent]  is  a  word  which  is  only  applicable  to  glass  win- 

That  one,  at  least,  of  the  princes  thus  addressed  did  not  take 
the  letter  ill,  is  shown  by  the  attempt  of  Philip  of  Hesse  to  recon- 
cile the  opposing  sections  of  the  Reformed  Church.  His  main 
motive  was  political,  for  he  saw  that  in  union  was  strength  and 
he  wished  to  make  an  alliance  between  the  German  Protestant 
states  and  the  Swiss  cantons.  He  was,  however,  something  of  a 
theologian  himself  ;  he  had  a  clearer  comprehension  of  Zwingli's 
opinion  than  had  Luther  and  was,  perhaps,  inclined  to  adopt  it 
himself.  Hoping  to  bring  about  an  understanding  that  would 
enable  both  parties  to  present  a  united  front  to  the  common 
enemy,  he  invited  the  reformers  and  other  distinguished  theo- 
logians to  a  conference  at  his  capital,  Marburg.  After  some 
negotiation  the  consent  of  all  concerned  was  secured  and  during 
the  last  days  of  September,  1529,  the  famous  divines  gathered 
in  the  pretty  Hessian  town  on  the  banks  of  the  Lahn.  All  were 
received  right  royally  by  the  host,  of  whom  Luther  many  years 
afterwards  related  the  following  characteristic  bit :  — 

At  Marburg  Philip  went  around  like  a  stable-boy,  concealing  his 
deep  thoughts  with  small  talk  as  great  men  do.  He  said  to  Melanch- 
thon  :  "  Shall  I  suffer  the  Archbishop  of  Mayence  to  take  away  my 
clergy  by  force?"  To  which  the  latter  replied:  "  Yes,  if  they  are 
under  the  jurisdiction  of  that  see."  Then  the  Landgrave  said :  "  I  have 
asked  your  advice  on  this,  but  I  won't  take  it." 

The  public  discussion  was  preceded  by  private  conferences 
of  the  leaders.  At  these,  or  perhaps  at  the  main  discussion, 


Luther  was  annoyed  by  the  display  of  humanistic  learning  made 
by  his  opponent.  Long  afterwards  he  spoke  of  him  in  these 
terms :  — 

People  always  want  to  seem  more  learned  than  they  are.  When 
we  were  at  Marburg,  Zwingli  wanted  to  speak  Greek.  Once,  when  he 
was  absent,  I  said :  u  Why  is  n't  he  ashamed  to  speak  Greek  in  the 
presence  of  so  many  learned  classicists  —  QEcolampadius,  Melanchthon, 
Osiander,  and  Brent  ?  They  know  Greek."  These  words  were  carried 
to  him,  wherefore  the  next  day  he  excused  himself  in  the  presence 
of  the  Landgrave  by  saying :  "  Illustrious  Lord,  I  speak  Greek  because 
I  have  read  the  New  Testament  for  thirteen  years."  No  indeed  !  It  is 
more  than  reading  the  New  Testament,  it  is  vainglory  that  blinds 
people.  When  Zwingli  spoke  German  he  wanted  every  one  to  adopt 
the  Swiss  dialect.  Oh,  how  I  hate  people  who  use  so  many  languages 
as  did  Zwingli :  at  Marburg  he  spoke  Greek  and  Hebrew  from  the 

The  great  colloquy  took  place  on  October  2,  in  the  large, 
darkly  wainscotted  hall  of  a  noble  castle,  the  battlements  of 
which,  crowning  the  steep  hill  in  the  centre  of  the  town,  seem 
rather  to  protect  than  to  overawe  the  smiling  region  round- 
about. Here,  before  an  audience  of  some  fifty  or  sixty  notables, 
Luther  debated,  for  some  hours,  that  autumn  day,  with  Zwingli 
and  (Ecolampadius.  The  speaking  was  temperate,  the  arguments 
in  the  main  the  old  familiar  ones.  Though  it  can  hardly  be 
denied  that  the  German  showed  himself  the  better   debater, 

L/the  result  was  indecisive,  all  persons  retaining  their  former 

Although  nothing,  or  next  to  nothing  had  been  accomplished, 
the  Landgrave  was  anxious  to  have  some  tangible  result  to  show 
for  all  his  trouble.  He  therefore  induced  his  guests  to  draw  up 
a  statement  of  their  common  beliefs,  known  as  the  Marburg 
Articles.  Fourteen  of  these  articles  were  on  points  agreed  toby 
both  sides  ;  the  fifteenth  defined  the  eucharist  and  stated  that 
the  subscribers  were  unable  to  agree  "  on  the  bodily  presence 
of  the  body  and  blood  "  in  the  elements,  with  a  prayer  for 
enlightenment.  The  principal  divines  present  signed  this  con- 
fession, but  when  Philip  requested  them  to  give  each  other  the 

•    right  hand  of  fellowship,  Luther  refused  with  the  remark,  es- 


pecially  unfortunate  on  account  of  its  previous  connotations, 
that  the  Swiss  had  a  different  spirit  from  his  own.  His  idea  of 
what  had  been  accomplished  is  given  in  the  two  letters  next 
translated,  the  former  being  especially  interesting  as  his  first 
known  letter  to  Katie.  It  shows  that  he  confided  his  deepest  in- 
terests to  her,  though  it  appears  that  part  of  the  letter,  written 
in  Latin  never  used  elsewhere  by  Martin  in  addressing  his  wife, 
was  intended  rather  for  Bugenhagen  than  for  her. 


(Marburg,)  October  4, 1529. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Dear  Lord  Katie,  know  that  our 
friendly  conference  at  Marburg  is  now  at  an  end  and  that  we  are  in 
perfect  union  in  all  points  except  that  our  opponents  insist  that  there 
is  simply  bread  and  wine  in  the  Lord's  Supper,  and  that  Christ  is  only 
in  it  in  a  spiritual  sense.  To-day  the  Landgrave  did  his  best  to  make 
us  united,  hoping  that  even  though  we  disagreed  yet  we  should  hold 
each  other  as  brothers  and  members  of  Christ.  He  worked  hard  for 
it,  but  we  would  not  call  them  brothers  or  members  of  Christ,  although 
we  wish  them  well  and  desire  to  remain  at  peace.  I  think  to-morrow 
or  day  after  we  shall  depart  to  go  and  see  the  Elector  at  Schleitz 
in  Vogtland,  whither  he  has  summoned  us. 

Tell  Bugenhagen  that  Zwingli's  best  argument  was  that  a  body 
could  not  exist  without  occupying  space  and  therefore  Christ's  body 
was  not  in  the  bread,  and  that  CEcolampadius'  best  argument  was 
that  the  sacrament  is  only  the  sign  of  Christ's  body.  I  think  God 
blinded  them  that  they  could  not  get  beyond  these  points.  I  have 
much  to  do  and  the  messenger  is  in  a  hurry.  Say  good-night  to  all 
and  pray  for  me.  We  are  all  sound  and  well  and  live  like  princes. 
Kiss  little  Lena  and  Hans  for  me. 

Your  humble  servant, 

Martin  Luther. 


Marburg,  October  4,  1529. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  You  will  know,  my  dear  Gerbel,  how 
far  we  attained  harmony  at  Marburg,  partly  by  the  verbal  report 
of  your  representatives,  partly  by  the  Articles  they  are  taking  with 
them.  We  defended  ourselves  strongly  and  they  conceded  much,  but 
as  they  were  firm  in  this  one  article  of  the  sacrament  of  the  altar  we 


dismissed  them  in  peace,  fearing  that  further  argument  would  draw 
blood.  We  ought  to  have  charity  and  peace  even  with  our  foes,  and 
so  we  plainly  told  them,  that  unless  they  grow  wiser  on  this  point 
they  may  indeed  have  our  charity,  but  cannot  by  us  be  considered  as 
brothers  and  members  of  Christ.  You  will  judge  how  much  fruit 
has  come  of  this  conference ;  it  seems  to  me  that  no  small  scandal 
has  been  removed,  since  there  will  be  no  further  occasion  for  dis- 
putation, which  is  more  than  we  had  hoped  for.  Would  that  the 
little  difference  still  remaining  might  be  taken  away  by  Christ.  Fare- 
well, brother,  and  pray  for  me. 


Martin  Luther. 



That  the  Edict  of  Worms  remained  a  dead  letter  was  due  to 
the  excessive  decentralization  of  the  Empire.  Since  Charles  had 
left  Germany  after  the  memorable  visit  of  1520-21,  three  im- 
portant diets,  one  held  at  Nuremberg  (1524)  and  two  at  Spires 
(1526  and  1529)  had  dealt  with  the  religious  question  without 
being  able  to  enforce  any  consistent  policy.  The  Emperor  himself 
had  been  too  busy  in  his  other  dominions  and  with  his  French 
and  Turkish  wars  even  to  attempt  to  suppress  the  German  her- 
esy. Toward  the  end  of  1529,  however,  the  success  of  his  arms 
in  other  quarters  enabled  him  to  turn  his  attention  northward. 
Fully  bent  on  settling  the  religious  dispute  for  his  subjects,  he 
summoned  a  diet  to  meet  at  Augsburg  in  1530,  announcing  his 
intention  of  being  present  at  it  himself. 

Early  in  April  of  this  year  Luther,  Melanchthon,  and  other 
theologians  set  out  from  Wittenberg  with  the  intention  of  ap- 
pearing at  the  Diet.  At  Coburg,  the  most  southern  town  of 
Ernestine  Saxony,  they  met  the  Elector,  and  waited  for  an 
imperial  safe-conduct  before  proceeding  further.  About  the 
middle  of  the  month  an  urgent  summons  from  Charles  V  to  the 
Elector  John  arrived,  together  with  safe-conducts  for  himself 
and  others  of  his  party,  but  none  for  Luther,  who  was  still, 
be  it  remembered,  under  the  ban  of  both  the  Church  and  the 
Empire.  In  these  circumstances  it  was  impossible  for  the  out- 
law to  attend  the  meetings  of  the  Estates,  and  accordingly  when 
John  set  out  with  the  other  theologians  on  April  22,  he  was 
consigned  to  the  castle  near  the  town  where  he  spent  nearly  six 

Feste  Coburg,  as  the  fortress  is  called,  crowns  a  small  emin- 
ence, the  only  one  in  the  region,  and,  like  a  little  city  built 
on  a  hill,  dominates  the  whole  surrounding  country.  Within  its 
ample  walls,  picturesque  towers,  and  rambling  battlements,  a 


garrison  might  well  be  maintained.  Without  the  austere  grand- 
eur of  the  Wartburg,  with  less  of  the  romantic  attraction  of 
Marburg,  Feste  Coburg  surpasses  both  these  castles  in  size  and 

With  Luther  were  his  amanuensis  Veit  Dietrich,  his  nephew 
Cyriac  Kaufmann,  and  some  thirty  retainers  of  the  Elector, 
From  his  retreat  the  Reformer  kept  up  a  lively  correspondence 
with  his  friends  at  Augsburg  as  well  as  with  those  left  at  Witten- 
berg ,  there  are  extant  almost  as  many  letters  written  from  the 
castle  as  days  he  spent  there.  Among  these  epistles  are  many  of 
the  finest  he  ever  penned ;  in  some  the  depths  of  his  religious  faith 
are  sounded,  in  others  the  chinks  and  crannies  of  his  deep  love 
are  searched.  Whatever  he  wrote  is  full  of  humor,  of  fancy,  of 
an  idyllic  love  of  nature  and  a  childlike  trust  in  God. 

On  the  very  day  on  which  he  moved  into  his  new  quarters 
the  Reformer  tells  of  them  thus :  — 


The  Realm  of  the  Birds  at  three  p.m.  (April  23,  1530). 

Grace  and  peace  in  the  Lord  Jesus.  I  have  come  to  my  Sinai,  dear- 
est Philip,  but  I  shall  soon  make  it  a  Zion  and  build  three  tabernacles, 
one  for  the  Psalter,  one  for  the  Prophets,  and  one  for  iEsop  —  I  speak 
after  the  manner  of  men.  It  is  indeed  a  very  pleasant  place  and  con- 
venient for  study,  save  that  your  absence  saddens  it. 

I  am  beginning  to  be  stirred  up  against  the  Turk  and  Mohammed, 
even  passionately  when  I  see  the  intolerable  fury  of  Satan  waxing 
proud  against  body  and  soul.  I  shall  therefore  pray  and  weep  nor 
cease  until  I  know  that  my  clamor  has  been  heard  in  heaven.  You 
are  more  affected  by  the  home-bred  monsters  of  the  Empire.  We  are 
those  to  whom  these  last  woes  were  predestined,  to  feel  and  suffer  the 
furious  impetus  of  the  final  assault.  But  the  attack  itself  is  a  witness 
and  prophecy  of  its  own  end  and  of  our  redemption. 

I  pray  Christ  to  give  you  sleep  and  to  free  your  heart  from  the 
cares  which  are  the  fiery  arrows  of  Satan.  Amen.  I  write  this  at  leis- 
ure, not  yet  having  received  my  books  and  papers.  Neither  have  I 
yet  seen  either  of  the  castle  wardens.  I  lack  nothing ;  this  huge  build- 
ing crowning  the  hill  is  all  mine  ;  the  keys  of  all  the  rooms  are  given 
to  me.  Thirty  men  are  said  to  take  their  meals  here,  among  them 
twelve  night  guards  and  two  scouts  who  keep  watch  from  the  towers. 


Why  should  I  write  all  this  ?  Because  I  have  nothing  else  to  do.  By- 
evening  I  hope  the  post  will  arrive  and  then  I  shall  hear  some  news. 
The  grace  of  God  be  with  you.  Amen.  Give  my  remembrances  to  Dr. 
Caspar  Lindemann  and  Spalatin.  I  shall  ask  Jonas  to  greet  Agricola 
and  Adler  for  me. 

Martin  Luther. 

To  Wittenberg  Luther  also  wrote  of  his  new  life.  His  large 
household  had  not  been  entirely  depleted.  The  guests  who  re- 
mained wrote  him  a  common  letter  giving  the  domestic  news, 
and  he  promptly  answered  them  in  this  delightful  epistle :  — 


At  the  Diet  op  the  Grain  Turks,  April  28,  1530. 
Grace  and  peace  unChrist.  Dear  gentlemen  and  friends,  I  have  re- 
ceived the  letter  which  you  all  sent  me  and  so  have  learned  how  every- 
thing is.  And  that  you  may  also  learn  how  things  are  with  us,  I  would 
have  you  know  that  we,  namely,  Veit  Dietrich,  Cyriac  Kaufmann,  and 
I,  did  not  press  on  to  the  Diet  of  Augsburg,  but  stopped  to  attend  an- 
other diet  here.  There  is  a  coppice  directly  under  our  windows,  like  a 
little  forest,  where  the  daws  and  crows  are  holding  a  diet ;  they  fly  to 
and  fro  at  such  a  rate  and  make  such  a  racket  day  and  night  that  they 
all  seem  drunk,  soused  and  silly.  I  wonder  how  their  breath  holds  out 
to  bicker  so.  Pray  tell  me  have  you  sent  any  delegates  to  these  noble 
estates  ?  For  I  think  they  must  have  assembled  from  all  the  world.  I 
have  not  yet  seen  their  emperor,  but  nobles  and  soldier  lads  fly  and 
gad  about,  inexpensively  clothed  in  one  color ;  all  alike  black,  all  alike 
gray-eyed,  all  alike  with  the  same  song,  sung  in  different  tones  of  big 
and  little,  old  and  young.  They  care  not  for  a  large  palace  to  meet  in, 
for  their  hall  is  roofed  with  the  vault  of  the  sky,  its  floor  is  the  carpet 
of  green  grass,  and  its  walls  are  as  far  as  the  ends  of  the  world.  They 
do  not  ask  for  horses  and  trappings,  having  winged  chariots  to  escape 
snares  and  keep  out  of  the  way  of  man's  wrath.  They  are  great  and 
puissant  lords,  but  I  have  not  yet  learned  what  they  have  decided  upon. 
As  far  as  I  can  gather  from  an  interpreter,  however,  they  are  for  a 
vigorous  campaign  against  wheat,  barley,  oats,  and  all  kinds  of  corn 
and  grain,  a  war  in  which  many  a  knight  will  do  great  deeds. 
So  we  sit  here  in  the  diet  and  spend  time  agreeably  seeing  and  hear- 
ing how  the  estates  of  the  realm  make  merry  and  sing.  It  is  pleasant 
to  see  how  soldierly  they  discourse  and  wipe  their  bills  and  arm  them- 


selves  for  victory  against  the  grain.  I  wish  them  good  luck  —  to  be  all 
spitted  on  a  skewer  together.  I  believe  they  are  in  no  wise  different 
from  the  sophists  and  papists  who  go  for  me  with  their  sermons  and 
books  all  at  once ;  I  see  by  the  example  of  the  harsh-voiced  daws 
what  a  profitable  people  they  are,  devouring  everything  on  earth  and 
chattering  loud  and  long  in  return. 

To-day  we  heard  the  first  nightingale,  who  could  hardly  believe  that 
it  was  April.  The  weather  has  been  splendid,  with  no  rain  except  a 
little  yesterday.  Perhaps  you  are  not  so  fortunate  in  this  respect.  God 
bless  you  all.  Keep  house  well. 

Martin  Luther. 

With  his  dear  wife,  too,  he  kept  up  regular  correspondence. 
Just  after  his  father's  death  she  sent  him  a  picture  of  their  year- 
old  baby  Magdalene,  a  pair  of  needed  spectacles,  and  a  box  of 
home  comforts,  for  which  he  thanks  her :  — 


(Feste  Coburg,)  June  5,  1530. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Dear  Katie,  I  believe  I  have  received 
all  your  letters.  This  is  my  fourth  to  you  since  John  left  me  for  Wit- 
tenberg. I  have  Lena's  picture  and  the  box  you  sent.  At  first  I  did 
not  know  the  little  hussy,  she  seemed  so  dark.  I  think  it  would  be  a 
first  rate  thing  if  you  weaned  her ;  do  it  little  by  little  as  Argula  von 
Grumbach  who  has  been  here  tells  me  she  did  with  her  son  George. 
John  Reinecke  of  Mansfeld  has  also  been  to  see  me  and  so  has  George 
Romer ;  in  fact  I  shall  soon  have  to  go  elsewhere  if  the  pilgrimage 
hither  continues. 

Tell  Christian  Daring  that  I  have  never  in  my  life  had  worse  spec- 
tacles than  those  that  came  with  his  letter ;  I  could  not  see  a  line 
through  them.  I  did  not  receive  the  note  sent  in  care  of  Conrad  Vater, 
as  I  am  not  at  Coburg,  but  I  shall  try  to  get  it.  You  can  send  your 
letters  care  of  the  superintendent,  who  will  forward  them  to  me. 

Our  friends  at  Nuremberg  and  Augsburg  are  beginning  to  doubt 
whether  anything  will  happen  at  the  Diet,  for  the  Emperor  still  tarries 
at  Innsbruck.  The  prelates  have  some  infernal  plot,  God  grant  the 
devil  foul  them.  Amen.  Let  Bugenhagen  read  the  copy  of  my  letter  to 
Link.  I  must  hurry,  as  the  messenger  will  not  wait.  Greet,  kiss,  hug, 
and  be  kind  to  each  according  to  his  degree. 

Martin  Luther. 


Katie  was  not  entirely  dependent  for  information  on  the  let- 
ters of  her  husband.  One  to  her  from  Veit  Dietrich  is  too 
characteristic  of  that  interesting  person  and  too  good  of  its 
kind  to  omit.  The  writer,  now  twenty-three  years  old,  had  come 
to  Wittenberg  to  study  medicine,  but  abandoned  that  vocation 
for  theology  when  he  came  under  the  influence  of  Luther.  He 
became  the  professor's  amanuensis  in  1527  and  was  taken  into 
his  house  in  1529.  His  unbounded  idolatry  of  the  great  man 
led  him  to  treasure  all  he  wrote  and  all  he  said ;  much  of  the 
table-talk  he  noted  down,  as  well  as  the  letter  given  below,  is 
worthy  of  Boswell. 


Festb  Coburg,  June  19, 1530. 

Grace  and  peace  in  God.  Kind,  gracious,  dear  lady !  Know  that 
your  husband  and  we  are  hale  and  hearty  by  God's  grace.  May  God 
also  bless  you  and  the  children.  You  did  a  mighty  good  stroke  of 
work  in  sending  the  doctor  the  picture,  for  it  makes  him  entirely  for- 
get his  cares.  He  has  hung  it  on  the  wall  opposite  the  table  in  the 
Elector's  apartment  where  we  eat.  When  he  first  saw  it  he  did  not 
recognize  it  for  a  long  time.  "  Dear  me,"  said  he,  rt  Lena  is  so  dark !  * 
But  now  it  pleases  him  well,  and  the  more  he  looks  at  it  the  better  he 
sees  it  is  Lena.  She  looks  extraordinarily  like  Hans  in  the  mouth, 
eyes,  and  nose,  in  fact  in  the  whole  face,  and  she  will  grow  more  like 
him.  I  just  had  to  write  you  this ! 

Dear  lady,  pray  don't  worry  about  the  doctor ;  he  is,  thank  God, 
hale  and  hearty,  and,  although  his  father's  death  was  very  bitter  to 
him,  he  ceased  mourning  for  it  after  two  days.  When  he  read  Rei- 
necke's  letter  he  said  to  me,  "  My  father  is  dead."  And  then  he  took 
his  Psalter  and  went  to  his  room  and  wept  so  much  that  for  two  days 
he  could  n't  work.  Since  then  he  has  not  given  way  to  grief  any  more. 
Saturday,  June  3,  the  town  clerk  was  our  guest  for  the  evening,  and 
the  doctor  told  us,  among  other  things,  how  he-  had  dreamed  the  night 
before  that  he  lost  a  tooth  so  large  that  it  astonished  him  beyond 
measure,  and  the  next  day  came  the  news  of  his  father's  death !  I 
thought  you  ought  to  know  this,  so  pray  take  it  with  my  service.  May 
God  bless  Hans  and  Lena  and  the  whole  household.  My  friend 
George  will  give  you  three  gulden,  which  please  accept  until  I  can 
get  more. 

Veit  Dietrich  of  Nuremberg. 


What  a  picture  of  the  man  these  chatty  letters  give !  As  at 
the  Wartburg  he  dressed  in  laymen's  clothes  and  grew  a  thick 
beard.  He  had  grown  stouter  and  aged  a  little  since  then,  more 
with  toil  and  illness  than  with  his  forty-seven  years.  Sometimes 
he  rambled  about  the  wide-flung  battlements,  gazing  with  a 
smile  at  the  busy  birds  in  the  tree-tops,  or  lost  in  thought  and 
wonder  at  the  mysteries  of  nature,  the  clouds,  the  rainbow, 
and  the  stars. 

Most  of  the  time  he  spent  in  his  little  wooden  room  with  the 
narrow  window,  poring  over  the  Hebrew  prophets  and  the 
Psalter,  or  adapting  an  old  German  translation  of  -ZEsop  to 
the  needs  of  his  own  day,  or  writing  letters.  His  first  task  was 
the  composition  of  A  Warning  to  the  Prelates  at  Augsburg  which 
was  printed  in  May  and  sent  to  the  Diet  in  June.  He  solemnly 
begs  the  clergy  there  assembled  not  to  make  the  session  vain 
and  not  to  induce  "  the  noble  blood  Charles  "  to  damn  him  and 
his  doctrine.  He  insists  that  he  is  not  responsible  for  the  tu- 
mults which  have  shaken  Germany ;  rather  he  alone  withstood 
the  turbulent  spirits  "  so  that  I  might  truly  say  that  I  was  your 
protector."  He  reminds  them  of  his  moderation  at  Worms  and 
recounts  the  history  of  his  attacks  on  indulgences,  confession, 
penance,  private  masses,  and  monastic  vows.  If  they  ask  what 
good  has  come  of  the  new  teaching,  he  replies  rather  what  good 
has  remained  with  his  opponents  ?  Have  they  not  perverted  all 
God's  laws?  Have  they  not  abused  the  ban,  the  sacrament, 
which  ought  to  be  administered  in  both  kinds,  and  vows  of 
celibacy  which  ought  to  be  left  free?  But  they  talk  only  of 
these  and  similar  things  indifferent,  whereas  they  should  first 
concern  themselves  with  the  primary  things,  the  law,  the  gospel, 
sin,  grace,  the  gifts  of  the  spirit,  right  repentance,  Christian 
freedom,  faith,  free  will,  and  love,  and  next  to  these  practical 
reforms  such  as  the  erection  of  schools,  hospitals,  and  the  reg- 
ulation of  poor-relief. 

Just  after  he  had  finished  this,  he  had  one  of  his  old  nervous 
break-downs,  partly  due  to  overwork,  partly  to  the  unaccustomed 
richness  of  the  fare.  Thus  he  writes :  — 



Feste  Coburg,  May  12,  1530. 

Grace  and  peace  in  the  Lor.d.  Dear  Philip,  I  began  to  answer  your 
letter  from  Nuremberg  on  May  8,  but  business  interfered  to  prevent 
me  finishing  my  reply.  I  have  completed  my  Warning  to  the  Pre- 
lates and  sent  it  off  to  the  Wittenberg  press.  I  have  also  translated 
the  two  chapters  of  Ezekiel  about  Gog  and  have  written  a  preface  to 
them,  so  that  they  can  be  printed  at  the  same  time.  Then  I  took  the 
Prophets  in  hand  and  attacked  the  labor  with  such  ardor  that  I  hope 
to  finish  it  before  Pentecost  and  after  that  turn  to  ^Esop  and  other 
things.  But  the  old  outer  man  cannot  keep  up  with  the  ardor  of  the 
new  inner  man ;  my  head  has  begun  to  suffer  from  ringing  or  rather 
thundering,  and  this  has  forced  me  to  stop  work.  Yesterday  and  the 
day  before  when  I  tried  to  work,  I  narrowly  escaped  fainting,  and  this 
is  the  third  day  on  which  I  am  unable  even  to  look  at  a  letter  of  the 
alphabet.  I  get  worse  as  the  years  go  by.  My  head  (caput)  is  now  a 
mere  heading  (capitulum)  or  chapter,  soon  it  will  be  a  paragraph,  and 
then  a  bare  sentence.  I  can  do  nothing  but  idle  ...  so  now  you  know 
why  I  am  slow  in  answering  your  letter.  On  the  day  that  it  came 
Satan  was  busy  occupying  my  attention  with  an  embassy.  I  was  alone, 
Dietrich  and  Cyriac  were  away,  and  Satan  conquered  me  so  far  that 
he  forced  me  to  leave  my  room  and  seek  the  society  of  men.  I  hardly 
expected  to  see  the  day  when  that  spirit  would  have  so  much  power 
and  simply  divine  majesty. 

Such  is  our  domestic  news ;  other  news  comes  from  abroad,  such 
as  that  you  mention  about  the  strife  between  Eck  and  Billican.  What 
is  happening  at  the  Diet  ?  What  do  those  blockish  asses  think  of  the 
cause  of  the  Church  and  how  are  they  disposed  ?  But  let  them  be. 

Camerarius  has  sent  me  some  dainties l  consisting  of  fine  grapes 1 
and  sack l  and  has  written  me  two  Greek  letters.  When  I  feel  better 
I  shall  write  him  in  Turkish,  that  he  too  may  have  to  read  what  he 
does  not  understand.  Why  should  he  write  me  in  Greek  ? 

I  must  stop  now  lest  my  head,  still  sensitive,  go  bad  again.  I  pray ; 
do  you  pray  also.  I  would  most  willingly  write,  as  you  suggest,  to  the 
Landgrave  of  Hesse  and  to  the  Elector  and  to  all  of  you,  but  I  must 
take  my  own  time.  The  Lord  be  with  you.  Give  heed  to  my  example 
and  be  sure  not  to  lose  your  head  as  I  have  done.  I  command  you 
and  all  my  friends  to  keep  regular  habits  for  the  sake  of  your  health. 
Do  not  kill  yourself  and  then  pretend  you  did  it  in  God's  service. 
1  These  three  words  are  in  the  rare  Greek  used  by  Camerarius. 


For  God  is  just  as  well  served,  if  not  better,  by  resting,  wherefore  he 
commanded  the  Sabbath  to  be  rigidly  kept.  Do  not  despise  this  warn- 
ing, for  it  is  the  word  of  God. 

Martin  Luther. 

When  the  Elector  heard  of  Luther's  sufferings  he  sent  him 
a  kind  message  not  to  worry  about  his  enforced  idleness,  and  at 
the  same  time  expressing  some  anxiety  on  his  own  part  at  the 
dark  outlook  of  the  Protestants  in  the  present  crisis.  The 
answer  encourages  him  in  turn :  — 


(Feste  Coburg,)  May  20,  1530. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ  our  Lord  and  Saviour.  Amen.  Most 
Serene,  Highborn  Prince,  most  Gracious  Lord !  I  have  delayed 
answering  your  Grace's  first  letter  from  Augsburg,  kindly  written  to 
tell  me  the  news  and  express  your  hope  that  time  was  not  hanging 
heavy  on  my  hands.  Truly  your  Grace  need  not  worry  about  me  in 
the  kindness  of  your  heart,  although  I  am  anxious  about  you  and 
pray  God  for  you.  The  time  does  not  seem  long  to  me ;  I  live  like  a 
lord  and  the  weeks  scarcely  seem  three  days  to  me.  It  is  your  Grace 
who  is  really  in  the  tedious  place.  .  .  . 

Consider  that  God  shows  himself  merciful  to  you  in  making  the 
Word  fruitful  in  your  Grace's  land.  Verily  Electoral  Saxony  has 
the  greatest  number  and  best  ministers  and  preachers  of  all  the  world, 
men  who  teach  pure,  true,  and  peaceable  doctrine.  Now  the  tender 
youth  of  both  sexes  are  growing  up  so  well  instructed  in  the  Catechism 
and  in  the  Bible  that  it  does  my  heart  good  to  see  how  the  boys  and 
girls  can  pray  and  believe  and  speak  more  of  God  and  Christ  than 
formerly  any  religious  foundation,  cloister,  or  school  could  or  yet  can. 
Such  young  people  in  your  Grace's  land  are  a  fair  paradise,  the 
like  of  which  is  not  to  be  found  in  all  the  rest  of  the  world.  It  is 
planted  by  God  in  your  Grace's  land  as  a  true  sign  of  favor  to  you, 
just  as  if  he  should  say :  "  Well,  dear  Prince  John,  I  commend  to 
you  my  most  precious  treasure,  my  pleasant  paradise ;  you  shall  be 
father  in  it,  for  I  put  it  under  your  protection  and  rule  and  give  you 
the  honor  of  being  my  gardener  and  care-taker."  ...  It  is  just  as  if 
God  himself  were  your  daily  guest  and  ward,  as  he  makes  his  gospel 
and  his  children  your  guests  and  wards.  On  the  other  hand,  consider 
what  terrible  harm  the  other  princes  have  done,  and  yet  do  to  their 
youth,  making  the  paradise  of  God  a  sinful,  worthless,  foul  slough 


of  Satan,  destroying  all  and  inviting  the  genuine  old  devil  to  be  their 
guest.  .  .  . 

May  your  Grace  be  pleased  with  my  letter ;  God  knows  I  speak 
the  truth  and  do  not  flatter,  for  it  is  a  sorrow  to  me  that  Satan  can 
still  trouble  and  disturb  your  heart.  I  know  him  somewhat  myself, 
for  he  is  accustomed  to  play  with  me.  He  is  a  gloomy,  sour  spirit  who 
cannot  suffer  a  heart  to  be  glad  or  have  peace,  and  especially  the 
heart  of  your  Grace,  for  he  knows  how  much  depends  on  you,  not 
only  for  us  but  for  the  world,  and  I  can  truly  say  for  heaven  itself. 
.  .  .  Wherefore  we  are  bound  loyally  to  pray  for  and  encourage 
your  Grace,  for  if  you  are  happy  we  live,  if  you  are  in  trouble  we 
sicken.  .  .  . 

Your  Grace's  subject, 

Martin  Luther. 

The  Diet,  though  summoned  to  meet  on  April  8,  did  not 
really  open  until  June  20,  a  few  days  after  the  arrival  of  the 
Emperor.  Charles  was  now  at  the  height  of  his  power.  The 
earnest  boy  who  had  heard  the  heretic  at  Worms  nine  years 
before  had  become  a  grave  man  of  thirty.  Though  without 
brilliant  talents  he  had  by  persistence  and  application  made 
himself  the  most  powerful  monarch  in  Europe.  He  had  repulsed 
the  Turk,  he  had  sacked  Kome,  he  had  beaten  France.  The 
fruits  of  the  last  victory,  that  of  Pavia,  in  February,  1525,  had 
been  torn  from  him,  for  the  concessions  made  by  Francis  and* 
ratified  by  an  oath  and  a  pledge  of  his  knightly  honor,  were 
forgotten  as  soon  as  the  Pope,  as  the  Lord's  Vicar,  absolved  the 
French  King  from  his  oath  and  made  with  him  the  "  holy " 
league  of  Cognac.  By  1530  Charles  had  made  peace  again  with 
these  two  powers,  a  state  of  things  from  which  some  augured 
ill  for  the  Protestant  cause.  Luther,  however,  suspected,  and 
rightly,  that  the  present  peace  was  not  much  more  stable  than 
the  former  one,  as  the  following  very  witty  letter  to  a  magis- 
trate in  Wittenberg  shows  :  — 


The  Wilderness,  (Feste  Cobubo,)  June  19,  1530. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.    Honorable,  learned  doctor  and  dear 
friend !  I  am  heartily  glad  to  hear  that  you  and  your  dear  Sophie  are 
well.    I  have  no  news  for  you  from  Augsburg,  as  our  tongue-tied 


friends  there  write  me  nothing,  which  pains  me  not  a  little.  I  know 
your  brother-in-law  Nicolas  von  Amsdorf  would  be  immoderately- 
angry  with  them  if  he  knew  how  reticent  they  were,  especially  at 
this  time.  He  shall  yet  be  their  judge. 

I  have  learned  from  hearsay  that  Venice  has  sent  the  Emperor  a 
present  of  many  hundred  thousand  gulden  and  that  Florence  offers 
him  five  barrels  of  gold,  but  that  the  Emperor  won't  take  anything 
for  the  sake  of  the  Pope,  who  has  promised  to  stand  by  him  with 
body  and  estate,  just  as  Francis  once  did  with  his  "par  mafoi  "  and 
the  Pope  with  his  "  in  nomine  Domini"  and  that  there  is  a  precious 
holy  league  —  all  that  we  don't  believe.  But  I  have  heard  from  Dr. 
Martin  Luther  himself  that  he  will  forfeit  an  eye  and  an  ear  if 
Venice,  the  Pope,  and  Francis  turn  true  Emperor's  men ;  they  are 
three  persons  of  one  nature,  namely,  of  an  inconceivable  wrath  and 
hatred  against  the  Emperor  with  all  hypocrisy,  lies,  and  fraud,  and 
will  remain  so  until  they  either  go  to  the  wall  —  may  God  help  them  to 
it  —  or  bring  pious,  noble  young  Charles  to  need.  For  my  Lord  Par- 
ma-foi  cannot  forget  the  disgrace  at  Pavia;  my  Lord  In-nomine- 
Domini  is  first,  a  low  Italian  —  which  is  too  much  —  secondly,  a 
Florentine  —  which  is  worse  —  and  third,  the  son  of  a  harlot  —  which 
is  the  devil  himself,  and  moreover  he  is  ill  at  ease  over  the  sack  of 
Rome.  Likewise  the  Venetians  are  nothing  but  Venetians,  which  is 
enough  said,  and  they  excuse  their  wickedness  by  pretending  to  take 
vengeance  for  Maximilian  —  all  these  things  we  firmly  believe.  But 
God  will  help  pious  Charles,  who  is  like  a  sheep  among  wolves. 
Amen.  Remember  me  to  your  dear  Sophie.  God  bless  you.  Amen. 

Martin  Luther. 

The  silence  of  which  Luther  complains  was  at  last  broken  by 
Melanchthon,  who  wrote  on  June  13  begging  him  to  write  at 
once  to  Philip  of  Hesse.  This  prince  seemed  likely  to  desert 
the  Lutheran  for  the  Zwinglian  party,  and  was  accordingly 
warned  of  the  danger  of  doing  so  in  the  desired  letter  by  the 
head  of  the  former  faction.  This  epistle  is  mainly  a  long  argu- 
ment against  the  theological  errors  of  the  sacramentarians, 
closing  with  the  words,  often  turned  against  their  writer  by  the 
Romanists  :  — 

O  God !  it  is  no  joke  nor  jest  to  teach  new  doctrine !  Darkness, 
arbitrary  opinion,  and  uncertain  arguments  must  not  move  us  to  it,  but 
only  clear,  powerful  texts,  such  as  the  Zwinglians  have  not  yet  found. 


Truly  I  have  suffered  great  pain  and  danger  for  the  sake  of  my  doc- 
trine and  hope  it  will  not  all  be  in  vain.  I  do  not  oppose  them  from 
hate  or  pride,  for  God  knows  I  would  long  ago  have  adopted  their 
doctrine  if  they  could  only  prove  it.  But  I  cannot  satisfy  my  con- 
science with  their  reasons. 

When  at  last  the  Diet  began  to  sit,  on  June  20,  it  decided  to 
take  up  the  religious  question  first.  Melanchthon,  as  the  active 
leader  of  the  Protestants,  had  drawn  up  an  official  statement 
of  their  doctrine  to  be  presented  to  the  Estates,  the  so-called 
Augsburg  Confession.  This  document  had  been  submitted  to 
Luther  and  approved  by  him,  but  after  this  Melanchthon  had 
somewhat  altered  it,  hoping  to  make  its  wording  more  accept- 
able to  the  Catholics  and  to  show  that  the  Protestants  were 
the  real  defenders  of  the  old  faith  against  novel  abuses.  For 
example,  the  article  on  the  sacrament  was  put  into  language 
which  good  Catholics  could  have  subscribed  to,  had  they  not 
known  that  declarations  on  transubstantiation  and  on  the  mass 
as  an  offering  had  been  intentionally  omitted.  Again,  private 
masses  were  gently  deprecated  instead  of  being  described  as  a 
horror  in  the  style  of  the  previous  confession.  In  spite  of  these 
concessions  Melanchthon  was  fearful  that  they  might  not 
satisfy  his  opponents,  and  when  he  wrote  to  Luther  again  on 
June  20,  he  made  gloomy  prognostications  as  to  the  outlook 
f ©r  the  cause,  and  complained  bitterly  of  the  cares  which  were 
devouring  him. 


The  Wilderness  (Feste  Coburg),  June  27, 1530. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ  —  in  Christ,  I  say,  not  in  the  world. 
Amen.  I  shall  write  again,  dear  Philip,  about  the  apology  you  make 
for  your  silence.  This  courier  has  come  unexpectedly  and  suddenly 
from  Wittenberg  and  is  going  to  leave  at  once  for  Nuremberg,  so  I 
must  wait  to  write  more  fully  for  another  post. 

Those  great  cares  by  which  you  say  you  are  consumed  I  vehemently 
hate ;  they  rule  your  heart  not  on  account  of  the  greatness  of  the 
cause  but  by  reason  of  the  greatness  of  your  unbelief.  John  Huss  and 
many  others  have  waged  harder  battles  than  we  do.  If  our  cause  is 
great,  its  author  and  champion  is  great  also,  for  it  is  not  ours.  Why 
are  you  therefore  always  tormenting  yourself  ?  If  our  cause  is  false, 


let  us  recant ;  if  it  is  true,  why  should  we  make  him  a  liar  who  com. 
mands  us  to  be  of  untroubled  heart  ?  Cast  your  burden  on  the  Lord, 
he  says.  The  Lord  is  nigh  unto  all  them  that  call  upon  him  with  a 
broken  heart.  Does  he  speak  in  vain  or  to  beasts  ?  I,  too,  am  quite 
often  smitten,  but  not  all  the  time.  It  is  not  your  theology  which 
makes  you  anxious,  but  your  philosophy,  the  same  which  has  been 
gnawing  at  your  friend  Camerarius.  What  good  can  you  do  by  your 
vain  anxiety  ?  What  can  the  devil  do  more  than  slay  us  ?  What  after 
that  ?  I  beg  you,  so  pugnacious  in  all  else,  fight  against  yourself,  your 
own  worst  enemy,  who  furnish  Satan  with  arms  against  yourself. 
Christ  died  once  for  sinners,  and  will  not  die  again  for  truth  and 
justice,  but  will  live  and  reign.  If  he  be  true,  what  fear  is  there  for 
the  truth  ?  Will  he  be  prostrated  by  God's  wrath  ?  rather  let  us 
prostrate  ourselves  before  it.  He  who  is  our  father  will  also  be  the 
father  of  our  children.  I  pray  for  you  earnestly  and  am  deeply  pained 
that  you  keep  sucking  up  cares  like  a  leech  and  thus  rendering  my 
prayers  vain.  Christ  knows  whether  it  is  stupidity  or  bravery,  but 
I  am  not  much  disturbed,  rather  of  better  courage  than  I  had  hoped. 
God  who  is  able  to  raise  the  dead  is  also  able  to  uphold  a  falling 
cause,  or  to  raise  a  fallen  one  and  make  it  strong.  If  we  are  not 
worthy  instruments  to  accomplish  his  purpose,  he  will  find  others.  If 
we  are  not  strengthened  by  his  promises,  to  whom  else  in  all  the  world 
can  they  pertain  ?  But  saying  more  would  be  pouring  water  into  the 

I  forwarded  your  letters  to  Wittenberg,  both  that  written  before 
and  that  written  after  the  arrival  of  the  Emperor.  For  at  home  they 
are  also  troubled  at  your  silence,  as  you  will  learn  from  Bugenhagen's 
letter,  though  the  fault  of  their  not  hearing  from  you  is  not,  as  Jonas 
says,  the  messenger's,  but  yours,  and  yours  alone.  May  Christ  com- 
fort, strengthen,  and  teach  you  by  his  spirit.  Amen.  If  I  hear  that 
things  are  going  badly  or  that  the  cause  is  in  danger,  I  shall  hardly  be 
able  to  restrain  myself  from  flying  to  Augsburg,  to  see  what  the  Bible 
calls  the  terrible  teeth  of  Satan  roundabout.  I  shall  write  again  soon ; 
in  the  mean  time  give  my  greetings  to  all  my  friends. 

Martin  Luther. 

The  Confession  was  read  before  the  Diet,  though  only  in  a 
secret  session.  Luther  regarded  this  as  a  great  triumph  for  the 
cause,  for  which  he  alone  had  stood  nine  years  before,  as  he 
writes  to  a  friend  and  ardent  supporter : — 



The  Wilderness,  July  6,  1530. 
.  .  .  Jonas  writes  me  that  he  was  present  during  the  session  when 
the  Confession  was  read  before  the  Diet  and  supported  in  a  two-hour 
oration  by  Dr.  Beier,  and  that  he  will  tell  me  later  what  he  gathered 
from  the  faces  of  the  audience.  .  .  .  Our  enemies  certainly  did  their 
best  to  prevent  the  Emperor  allowing  it  to  be  read,  and  they  did  suc- 
ceed in  preventing  its  being  read  in  the  public  hall  before  all  the  peo- 
ple. But  the  Emperor  heard  it  before  the  princes  and  estates  of  the 
Empire.  I  am  overjoyed  to  be  living  at  this  hour,  when  Christ  is  openly 
confessed  by  so  many  in  a  great  public  assembly  and  with  so  good  a 
confession.  ...  Do  not  cease  to  pray  for  the  good  young  Emperor, 
worthy  of  the  love  of  God  and  of  men  and  for  the  not  less  excellent 
elector  who  bears  the  cross  and  for  Melanchthon  who  tortures  himself 
with  care.  .  .  - 

The  reading  of  the  Confession  was  only  the  beginning  of 
negotiation,  which,  dragging  along  week  after  week,  sorely  tried 
the  patience  and  firmness  of  the  Protestant  minority.  In  these 
dark  days,  when  the  sun  was  hidden  and  the  way  seemed  lost, 
Luther,  though  absent,  the  heart  and  soul  of  his  party,  encour- 
aged and  revived  their  fainting  spirits.  One  of  the  most  wonder- 
ful letters  he  ever  wrote  is  the  following  to  the  chancellor,  or, 
as  we  might  say,  prime  minister  of  Electoral  Saxony. 


The  Wilderness,  August  5,  1530. 

...  I  have  recently  seen  two  miracles.  The  first  was,  that  as  I  looked 
out  of  my  window,  I  saw  the  stars  and  the  sky  and  the  whole  vault  of 
heaven,  with  no  pillars  to  support  it ;  and  yet  the  sky  did  not  fall  and 
the  vault  remained  fast.  But  there  are  some  who  want  to  see  the  pillars 
and  would  like  to  clasp  and  feel  them.  And  when  they  are  unable  to 
do  so  they  fidget  and  tremble  as  if  the  sky  would  certainly  fall  in, 
simply  because  they  cannot  feel  and  see  the  pillars  under  it.  If  they 
could  only  do  this,  they  would  be  satisfied  that  the  sky  would  remain 

Again  I  saw  great,  thick  clouds  roll  above  us,  so  heavy  that  they 
looked  like  great  seas,  and  I  saw  no  ground  on  which  they  could  rest 
nor  any  barrels  to  hold  them  and  yet  they  fell  not  on  us,  but  threatened 


us  and  floated  on.  When  they  had  passed  by,  the  rainbow  shone  forth, 
the  rainbow  which  was  the  floor  that  held  them  up.  It  is  such  a  weak 
thin  little  floor  and  roof  that  it  was  almost  lost  in  the  clouds  and  looked 
more  like  a  ray  coming  through  a  stained  glass  window  than  like  a 
strong  floor,  so  that  it  was  as  marvellous  as  the  weight  of  the  clouds. 
For  it  actually  happened  that  this  seemingly  frail  shadow  held  up  the 
weight  of  water  and  protected  us.  But  some  people  look  at  the  thick- 
ness of  the  clouds  and  the  thinness  of  the  ray  and  they  fear  and  worry. 
They  would  like  to  feel  how  strong  the  rainbow  is,  and  when  they  can- 
not do  so  they  think  the  clouds  will  bring  on  another  deluge. 

I  permit  myself  such  pleasantries  with  your  Honor,  although  I  write 
with  earnest  purpose.  ...  I  hope  we  can  keep  the  peace  politically, 
but  God's  thoughts  are  above  our  thoughts.  ...  If  he  should  hear  our 
prayers  now  and  grant  us  peace,  perhaps  it  would  turn  out  worse  than 
we  hoped,  and  God  would  get  less  glory  than  the  Emperor.  ...  I  do 
not  mean  to  despise  the  Emperor,  and  only  hope  and  pray  that  he  may 
do  nothing  against  God  and  the  imperial  constitution.  If,  however,  he 
does  this,  we  as  faithful  subjects  are  bound  to  believe  that  it  is  not  the 
Emperor  himself  who  is  so  doing,  but  tyrannical  advisers  usurping  his 
authority,  and  we  should  make  a  distinction  between  the  acts  of  our 
sovereign  and  those  of  his  wicked  counsellors.  .  .  . 

While  Luther  was  writing  these  lines  bad  news  was  on  the 
way.  A  Refutation  of  the  Confession,  prepared  by  his  old  enemy 
Eck  and  others,  was  read  before  the  Diet  on  August  3.  Charles 
refused  to  allow  the  Protestants  a  copy  of  this,  which  they 
desired  in  order  to  frame  a  reply.  Thereupon  Philip  of  Hesse, 
thinking  all  was  over,  suddenly  and  secretly  left  Augsburg, 
August  6.  Just  a  week  before  he  had,  in  spite  of  Luther's  warn- 
ing to  beware  of  the  sacramentarians,  entered  into  an  alliance 
with  Zurich  and  Constance.  The  Wittenberg  professor  did  not 
hear  of  this  for  some  time,  and  when  he  did  judged  the  ambi- 
tious chief  severely  for  a  step  likely  to  bring  on  a  war  between 
Lutherans  and  Swiss. 

But  negotiations  were  still  continued  by  the  Protestants  who 
stood  fast  and  by  a  Catholic  peace  party  headed  by  Albert  of 
Mayence.  Crafty  Eck  had  appointed  a  committee  of  six  consist- 
ing of  himself,  four  other  Catholics,  and  Melanchthon.  The 
one  reformer  in  this  body  had  not  the  stamina  to  withstand 
a  hostile  majority  and  made  such  concessions  on  all  points  save 


marriage  of  the  clergy,  the  dispensation  of  the  sacrament  in  both 
kinds  and  the  abolition  of  private  masses,  that  an  agreement  was 
almost  reached.  It  must  be  remembered,  however,  that  when 
articles  of  faith  were  expressed  in  purposely  ambiguous  terms 
acceptable  to  both  parties,  the  interpretation  of  these  words  was 
diametrically  opposite.  In  return  for  the  Protestant  agreement 
to  call  the  mass  an  offering,  if  the  word  were  qualified  with  the 
term  commemorative,  the  Catholics  conceded  that  communion 
might  be  administered  in  both  kinds  if  it  were  taught  that  this 
was  a  matter  of  convenience  and  not  of  principle.  One  of  the 
most  dangerous  points  yielded  by  Melanchthon  was  that  the 
bishops  should  be  restored  to  their  ancient  jurisdictions,  a  meas- 
ure justified  by  him  as  a  blow  to  turbulent  sectaries. 

Negotiations  continued,  to  the  increasing  prejudice  of  the 
Protestants,  throughout  most  of  August  and  September.  Me- 
lanchthon, whose  humanistic  training  gave  him  a  broader  out- 
look than  that  of  many  of  his  contemporaries,  animated  by 
a  sincere  love  of  peace,  yielded  on  matters  which  to  him 
were  indifferent,  but  to  his  co-religionists  vital.  Justus  Jonas, 
also  a  humanist  by  education,  sided  with  him,  but  most  of 
the  other  Protestant  leaders  raised  an  outcry  that  he  was  a 
greater  enemy  to  the  faith  than  any  Catholic  and  appealed 
over  his  head  to  Luther.  The  numerous  letters  written  by  him 
to  his  friends  at  Augsburg,  though  they  sometimes"  show 
perplexity  as  to  what  was  actually  being  done,  are  consistently 
and  energetically  opposed  to  all  compromise.  To  Melanchthon 
he  wrote,  August  26,  that  he  was  even  sorry  that  Eck  had  told 
such  a  lie  as  to  say  that  he  believed  in  justification  by  faith ; 
communion  in  both  kinds  must  be  insisted  on  as  necessary  in  all 
cases,  and  there  was  great  danger  of  civil  war  in  restoring  the 
bishops  to  their  old  power.  "  In  short,  all  treaty  about  harmon- 
izing our  doctrines  displeases  me,  for  I  know  it  is  impossible 
unless  the  Pope  will  simply  abolish  the  papacy."  On  September 
20  he  wrote  :  "  If  we  yield  a  single  one  of  their  conditions,  be 
it  that  on  the  Canon  or  on  private  masses,  we  deny  our  whole 
doctrine  and  confirm  theirs.  ...  I  would  not  yield  an  inch  to 
those  proud  men,  seeing  how  they  play  upon  our  weakness. 
...  I  am  almost  bursting  with  anger  and  indignation.  Pray 


break  off  all  transactions  at  once  and  return  hither.  They  have 
our  Confession  and  they  have  the  Gospel ;  if  they  wish  let  them 
hear  those  witnesses,  if  not  let  them  depart  to  their  own  place.  If 
war  follows  it  will  follow ;  we  have  prayed  and  done  enough." 

Luther  has  often  been  blamed  for  his  uncompromising  spirit 
and  for  his  narrowness  on  this  occasion.  An  age  which  has 
ceased  to  regard  many  points  then  hotly  disputed  as  vital  or 
even  as  interesting  can  hardly  appreciate  the  opinion  of  a  man 
who  made  so  much  of  them.  Nevertheless,  while  Melanchthon's 
conciliatory  breadth  is  far  more  congenial  to  our  modern  spirit, 
I  believe  that  in  this  case  Luther  was  right.  The  problem  be- 
fore a  statesman  is  not  what  is  the  best  possible  policy  in  per- 
fect conditions,  but  what  is  the  best  practical  course  to  pursue 
under  given  limitations.  The  question  for  the  Protestants  of 
1530  was  not  what  line  might  be  safely  followed  in  an  enlight- 
ened, tolerant  age,  but  what  measures  were  necessary,  in  the  face 
of  an  exigent  and  perilous  situation.  It  was  a  plain  fact  that 
however  much  they  might  juggle  with  words  their  differences 
were  far  too  fundamental  to  be  composed  by  any  treaty.  Luther 
saw  this,  Melanchthon  did  not. 

The  Catholics  also  saw  it.  Notwithstanding  the  immense  con- 
cessions wrung  from  their  opponents,  they  voted,  on  September 
22,  that  the  Confession  had  been  refuted  and  rejected,  and  that 
consequently  the  Protestants  were  bound  to  recant.  The  Diet, 
in  this  Recess,  gave  the  heretics  until  April  15,  while  the  Em- 
peror was  to  use  his  influence  with  the  Pope  to  call  a  general 
council  for  the  decision  of  still  doubtful  points  ;  after  that  re- 
spite they  were  to  be  coerced. 

Luther  was  deeply  disappointed  at  this  result.  "  I  think  the 
Recess  is  worldly  wisdom,"  he  wrote  on  October  1,  "but  let  us 
believe  that  Christ  is  yet  strong  enough  to  rule  all  fools  and 
babblers  who  condemn  him."  A  day  or  two  later  the  whole 
Saxon  delegation  returned  to  Coburg,  which  the  Reformer  left 
on  the  fourth,  arriving  home  on  the  thirteenth. 



Luther's  greatest  monument  is  the  German  Bible.  The  old 
error  of  supposing  that  his  was  the  first  German  version  and 
that  before  his  time  the  book  had  been  much  neglected  has 
been  often  exposed ;  yet  it  remains  true  that  his  translation,  by 
its  superior  scholarship  and  wonderful  style,  marks  an  era  in 
both  religion  and  literature. 

Begun  at  the  Wartburg  in  the  latter  part  of  1521,  the  work 
was  prosecuted  with  such  energy  that  the  New  Testament  was 
completed  by  the  time  that  Luther  returned  to  Wittenberg  in 
March,  1522.  It  was  published  the  following  September  in  a 
handsome  quarto  with  woodcuts  from  Cranach's  workshop, — 
some  of  them  after  Diirer's  famous  Apocalypse  series,  —  a  de- 
scription of  the  Holy  Land  by  Melanchthon,  marginal  explan- 
atory notes  and  introductions  to  the  whole  and  to  the  separate 
books  by  Luther. 

Work  on  the  Old  Testament  was  begun  at  once  with  the 
help  of  Melanchthon,  Aurogallus,  and  Ebrer.  The  first  part 
appeared  in  the  summer  of  1523  and  the  second  in  December 
of  that  year.  Of  the  work  taken  up  next,  Luther  writes,  on 
February  23, 1524,  to  Spalatin :  — 

We  have  so  much  trouble  translating  Job,  on  account  of  the  grand- 
eur of  his  sublime  style,  that  he  seems  to  be  much  more  impatient  of 
our  efforts  to  turn  him  into  German  than  he  was  of  the  consolations 
of  his  friends.  Either  he  always  wishes  to  sit  upon  his  dunghill,  or 
else  he  is  jealous  of  the  translator  who  would  share  with  him  the 
credit  of  writing  his  book. 

The  third  part  of  the  Old  Testament,  however,  containing 
this  difficult  book,  appeared  in  September  or  October,  1524. 
There  still  remained  the  Prophets,  and  labor  on  them  had  to 
be  postponed  for  some  years  by  the  controversies  with  Erasmus, 


the  Heavenly  Prophets,  and  Zwingli.  When  they  were  taken 
up  again,  in  1528,  the  Reformer  wrote  Wenzel  Link,  on  June 
14:  — 

I  am  now  at  work  translating  the  Prophets.  Good  Heavens !  how 
hard  it  is  to  make  the  Hebrew  writers  speak  German  !  They  with- 
stand our  efforts,  not  wishing  to  give  up  their  native  tongue  for  a  bar- 
barous idiom,  just  as  the  nightingale  would  not  change  her  sweet 
song  to  imitate  the  cuckoo  whose  monotonous  note  she  abhors. 

In  the  same  year  Isaiah  was  finished,  after  which  some  por- 
tions of  the  Apocrypha  were  taken  up.  At  Feste  Coburg  the 
Prophets  were  almost  completed,  though  it  was  not  until  March 
16,  1532,  that  the  last  portion  of  the  Old  Testament  came  out. 
This  was  shortly  followed  by  the  Apocrypha.  In  1539  a  care- 
ful revision  was  undertaken  by  a  "  Sanhedrim  "•  as  Mathesius 
calls  it,  consisting  of  Melanchthon  the  Grecian,  Cruciger  with 
the  Chaldean  paraphrase,  Bugenhagen  skilful  in  the  Latin  ver- 
sion, Jonas  the  rhetorician,  Aurogallus  professor  of  Hebrew, 
Rorer  the  proof-reader,  and  Luther  the  president  and  inspiring 
spirit  of  the  whole.  He  took  a  legitimate  pride  in  his  own  work, 
of  which  he  said :  — 

I  do  not  wish  to  praise  myself,  but  the  work  speaks  for  itself.  The 
German  Bible  is  so  good  and  precious  that  it  surpasses  all  the  Greek 
and  Latin  versions,  and  more  is  found  in  it  than  in  all  the  commenta- 
ries, for  we  clear  the  sticks  and  stones  out  of  the  way  that  others  may 
read  without  hindrance. 

In  point  of  scholarship  Luther's  version  was  far  superior  to 
all  that  had  preceded  it.  They  had  been  made  from  the  Latin 
Vulgate,  adding  to  the  errors  of  their  original  others  of  their 
own.  The  basis  of  Luther's  translation  was  the  original  tongues : 
the  Hebrew  Massoretic  text  of  the  Old  Testament  published  by 
Gerson  Ben  Mosheh  at  Brescia  in  1494  and  the  Greek  New 
Testament  of  Erasmus  in  the  edition  of  1519.  Modern  critics 
have  been  able  to  improve  on  the  work  of  Erasmus,  nevertheless 
his  text  was  better  than  anything  which  had  preceded  it  and  was 
in  some  points,  as  for  example  in  omitting  1  John  v,  7,  superior 
to  that  from  which  our  King  James  version  was  made. 

Other  helps  were  of  course  much  scantier  than  they  are  to- 


day.  For  example  a  diligent  search  failed  to  secure  a  map  of 
the  Holy  Land.  Luther  undoubtedly  used  the  Latin  and  even 
the  older  German  versions  as  aids,  though  in  no  sense  did  he 
copy  them.  The  work  was  indeed  done  with  astounding  rapid- 
ity, but  the  manuscripts  show  how  carefully  he  polished  and 
revised,  and  the  success  of  the  work  testifies  to  its  excellence. 

Luther's  principles,  indeed,  were  not  strictly  scientific,  but 
rather  apologetic.  The  protocols  laid  down  for  the  revision  of 
1539  indicate  this,  and  so  does  the  following  saying  of  1540  :  — 

Dr.  Forster  and  Ziegler  conferred  with  us  about  our  version  and 
gave  us  much  help.  I  gave  them  three  rules :  1.  The  Bible  speaks 
and  teaches  of  God's  works,  of  this  there  is  no  doubt.  But  these  works 
are  divided  into  three  classes  :  the  home,  the  State,  and  the  Church.  If 
a  saying  does  not  fit  the  Church,  let  us  place  it  in  whichever  of  the 
other  classes  it  best  suits.  2.  When  there  is  doubt  about  the  words  or 
construction,  we  must  choose  the  sense  —  saving  the  grammar  —  which 
agrees  with  the  New  Testament.  3.  If  a  sentence  is  repugnant  to  the 
whole  of  Scripture,  we  must  simply  throw  it  away,  for  the  rabbis 
have  corrupted  the  whole  text  with  their  notes,  trying  to  make  it 
appear  that  the  Messiah  will  come  to  give  us  meat  and  drink  and  after- 
ward will  die.  That  is  a  horror  and  we  must  simply  throw  it  away.  I 
took  many  a  questionable  sentence  to  Forster  ;  if  he  said,  "  But  the 
rabbis  understand  it  so  and  so,"  I  replied,  u  But  could  you  not  write 
the  vowel  points  differently  and  construe  so  as  to  agree  with  the  New 
Testament?  "  In  case  his  reply  was  affirmative  I  would  say  that  it  should 
then  be  so  construed.  That  sometimes  surprised  them,  and  they  said 
that  they  would  not  have  thought  of  that  sense  their  whole  life  long. 

,  Such  a  saying  gives  a  rather  unfavorable  idea  of  the  probable 
accuracy  of  the  version ;  nevertheless  as  a  matter  of  fact 
Luther's  scholarship  was  far  sounder  than  that  of  his  prede- 
cessors. But  it  was  less  remarkable  for  this  excellence  than  for 
the  superiority  of  its  style.  The  English  Bible  has  also  become 
a  classic,  but  hardly  attains  the  exalted  position  of  the  German 
in  this  respect.  Luther's  influence,  exerted  chiefly  through  this 
work,  has  been  so  enormous  on  the  literature  of  his  people  that 
it  is  sometimes  said  that  he  created  the  modern  written  language. 
Other  scholars  are  inclined  to  see  in  him  rather  the  culmina- 
tion of  a  literary  activity  which  began  some  centuries  before. 


It  is  certain  that  there  existed  befere  him  a  common  German 
apart  from  the  numerous  local  dialects,  spoken  at  the  court 
first  of  the  Luxemburg  and  then  of  the  Hapsburg  emperors.1 
Luther  himself  recognized  this :  — 

I  talk  a  common,  standard  German  rather  than  a  particular  dialect, 
and  thus  I  can  be  understood  in  both  Upper  and  Lower  Germany. 
I  speak  according  to  the  usage  of  the  Saxon  chancery,  the  form  used 
by  the  German  princes  in  addressing  one  another.  Maximilian  and 
Frederic  the  Wise  brought  the  whole  Empire  to  a  sort  of  common 
speech  by  combining  all  the  dialects  in  one. 

Whatever  may  be  thought  of  Luther's  speech,  whether  he 
merely  gave  currency  to  "  the  ugly  dialect  of  the  Luxemburg 
emperors,"  or  created  a  strong  and  flexible  literary  language, 
it  is  certain  that  his  writings  were  for  a  long  time  the  standard 
of  good  form  and  that  they  gave  an  immense  impetus  to  Ger- 
man thought. 

His  own  principles,  which  conduced  to  great  freedom  of  treat- 
ment, are  well  set  forth  by  himself :  — 

It  is  not  possible  to  reproduce  a  foreign  idiom  in  one's  native 
tongue.  The  proper  method  of  translation  is  to  seek  a  vocabulary 
neither  too  free  nor  too  literal,  but  to  select  the  most  fitting  terms 
according  to  the  usage  of  the  language  adopted. 

To  translate  properly  is  to  render  the  spirit  of  a  foreign  language 
into  our  own  idiom.  I  do  this  with  such  care  in  translating  Moses  that 
the  Jews  accuse  me  of  rendering  only  the  sense  and  not  the  precise 
words.  For  example  when  the  Hebrew  says,  "  the  mouth  of  the  sword  " 
I  translate  "the  edge  of  the  sword,''  though  in  this  case  it  might  be 
objected  that  the  word  "  mouth  "  is  a  figurative  allusion  to  preachers 
who  destroy  by  word  of  mouth. 

I  try  to  speak  as  men  do  in  the  market-place.  Didactic,  philosophic, 
and  sententious  books  are,  therefore,  hard  to  translate,  but  narrative 
easy.  In  rendering  Moses  I  make  him  so  German  that  no  one  would 
know  that  he  was  a  Jew. 

No  Englishing  of  Luther's  German  can  give  any  conception 

1  It  is  interesting  to  compare  the  formation  of  the  common  dialect  in  Germany 
and  Italy.  As  Luther  claims  to  speak  the  tongue  of  the  cultivated  introduced  hy 
the  Emperor  Maximilian  (as  he  thinks),  so  Dante  (De  vulgari  eloquio)  states  that 
he  wrote  not  the  Tuscan  dialect  hut  a  common  Italian,  originating,  as  he  believed, 
at  the  court  of  Frederic  II. 


of  the  peculiar  flavor  of  his  version,  which,  to  be  appreciated, 
must  be  read  in  the  original.  One  or  two  examples,  however, 
may  serve  to  point  out  the  extreme  freedom  of  the  rendering. 
The  word  "  church  "  (Kirche)  is  never  used,  but  for  it  "  con- 
gregation "  (Gemeinde),  as  more  consistent  with  the  original 
idea.  Again  "  Repent  ye  "  (Matt,  iii,  2;  iv,  17  ;  Mark  i,  15)  is 
not  "  tut  Busse  "  as  in  the  older  versions,  but  "  bessert  euch," 
"  improve  yourselves."  In  Romans  iii,  28,  "  Therefore  we  con- 
clude that  a  man  is  justified  by  faith  without  works  of  the  law," 
Luther  added  "alone"  after  "faith,"  to  bring  out  what  he 
believed  to  be  the  meaning  of  the  apostle.  He  was  violently 
attacked  for  this  alteration  by  his  enemies,  and  defended  him- 
self in  an  angry  Letter  on  Translation  in  1530. 

It  is  my  testament  and  my  translation  [he  bursts  out]  and  if  I  have 
made  any  mistakes  (though  I  never  falsified  intentionally)  I  will  not 
let  the  papists  judge  me.  .  .  .  As  to  Romans  iii,  28,  if  the  word 
"  alone  "  is  not  found  in  the  Latin  or  Greek  texts,  yet  the  passage  has 
that  meaning  and  must  be  rendered  so  in  order  to  make  it  clear  and 
strong  in  German. 

Luther's  attitude  to  the  Bible  contains  one  striking  contra- 
diction. He  insisted  that  it  should  be  taken  as  a  whole  and 
literally  as  God's  inerrant  Word  ;  and  at  the  same  time  he  was 
himself  the  freest  of  "  higher  critics."  In  his  works  against  the 
Heavenly  Prophets  (1524)  and  against  Erasmus  (1525)  he 
introduces  long  arguments  to  show  that  the  Bible  is  consistent 
and  binding  in  the  literal  interpretation  of  each  text.  In  a 
work  of  1530  he  says :  "  Let  no  one  think  he  can  master  the 
articles  of  faith  by  reason.  .  .  .  What  Christ  says  must  be  so 
whether  I  or  any  other  man  can  understand  it."  In  his  book 
Against  the  Papacy  at  Rome  (1545)  he  says :  "  This  writer 
would  have  done  better  to  leave  his  reason  at  home  or  to 
ground  it  on  texts  of  Scripture,  rather  than  ridiculously  and 
crazily  to  found  faith  and  the  divine  law  on  mere  reason." 
These  and  many  another  saying  lend  substance  to  the  charge, 
often  brought  against  Luther,  of  having  merely  substituted  an< 
infallible  book  for  an  infallible  Church,  or  as  a  recent  writer 
has  expressed  it,  "  of  having  set  up  Bibliolatry  in  place  of 


But  Luther  was  not  the  man  to  be  bound  by  his  own  rule ; 
few  of  his  followers  have  ever  interpreted,  commented  on,  and 
criticised  the  Bible  with  the  freedom  habitual  to  him.  The 
books  he  judged  according  as  they  appealed  to  his  own  subject- 
ive nature,  or  according  to  his  spiritual  needs.  He  often  exer- 
cised his  reason  in  determining  the  respective  worth  of  the 
several  books  of  the  Bible,  and  in  a  way  which  has  been  con- 
firmed to  a  surprising  degree  by  subsequent  researches.  He 
denied  the  Mosaic  authorship  of  part  of  the  Pentateuch  ;  he 
declared  Job  to  be  an  allegory ;  Jonah  was  so  childish  that  he 
was  almost  inclined  to  laugh  at  it ;  the  books  of  Kings  were 
"  a  thousand  paces  ahead  of  Chronicles  and  more  to  be  be- 
lie ved."  "  Ecclesiastes  has  neither  boots  nor  spurs,  but  rides  in 
socks,  as  I  did  when  I  was  in  the  cloister." 

The  Psalter  was  prized  highly  :  "  It  should  be  dear  to  us," 
he  said  in  his  preface  to  it,  "  if  only  because  it  so  clearly  pro- 
mises Christ's  death  and  resurrection  and  prefigures  his  king- 
dom with  the  estate  and  nature  of  all  Christendom,  so  that  it 
may  well  be  called  a  small  Bible  wherein  all  that  stands  in 
Scripture  is  most  fairly  and  briefly  comprehended." 

But  we  must  not  make  Luther  more  in  advance  of  his  time 
than  he  really  was.  He  naively  accepted  all  the  miracles  of  the 
Bible,  as  illustrated  by  the  following :  — 

I  would  give  the  world  to  have  the  stories  of  the  antediluvian 
patriarchs  also,  that  we  might  see  how  they  lived,  preached,  and  suf- 
fered. ...  I  have  taught  and  suffered,  too,  but  only  fifteen,  twenty, 
or  thirty  years ;  they  lived  seven  or  eight  hundred  and  how  they  must 
have  suffered ! 

Like  freedom  was  used  in  judging  the  books  of  the  New 
Testament.  In  the  preface  of  1545  he  says :  "  St.  John's  Gos- 
pel and  his  first  epistle,  St.  Paul's  epistles,  and  especially 
Romans,  Galatians,  and  Ephesians,  and  St.  Peter's  first  epistle 
are  the  books  which  teach  all  that  is  necessary  for  salvation, 
even  if  you  read  no  other  books.  In  comparison  with  them, 
James  is  a  right  straw  epistle,  for  it  has  no  evangelic  manner 
about  it." 

In  the  introduction  to  Romans  (1522),  he  says :  "  This  epis- 


tie  is  the  kernel  of  the  New  Testament  and  the  clearest  of  all 
gospels,  worthy  and  worth  that  a  Christian  man  should  not 
only  know  the  words  by  heart,  but  should  converse  with  them 
continually  as  the  daily  bread  of  the  soul.  It  can  never  be  too 
much  read  nor  considered,  but  the  more  if  is  used  the  more 
precious  it  becomes."  Then,  by  way  of  explaining  the  apostolic 
use  of  such  words  as  law,  sin,  grace,  faith,  justification,  flesh, 
and  spirit,  he  gives  an  excellent  summary  of  his  own  doctrine. 

Kevelation  he  holds  neither  apostolic  nor  prophetic,  for 
Christ  is  neither  taught  nor  recognized  in  it. 

Again,  when  he  was  asked  what  were  the  best  books  of  the 
Bible,  he  said  the  Psalms,  St.  John's  and  St.  Paul's  epistles  for 
those  who  had  to  fight  heretics,  but  for  the  common  man  and 
young  people  the  first  three  gospels. 

The  often  quoted  condemnation  of  James  as  an  epistle  of 
straw  is  far  better  known  than  the  more  drastic  things  he  said 
about  it  to  his  table  companions :  — 

Many  sweat  to  reconcile  St.  Paul  and  St.  James,  as  does  Melanch- 
thon  in  his  Apology,  but  in  vain.  "  Faith  justifies  and  u  faith  does 
not  justify  "  contradict  each  other  flatly.  If  any  one  can  harmonize 
them  I  will  give  him  my  doctor's  hood  and  let  him  call  me  a  fool. 

Let  us  banish  this  epistle  from  the  university,  for  it  is  worthless.  It 
has  no  syllable  about  Christ,  not  even  naming  him  except  once  at 
the  beginning.  I  think  it  was  written  by  some  Jew  who  had  heard 
of  the  Christians  but  not  joined  them.  James  had  learned  that  the 
Christians  insisted  strongly  on  faith  in  Christ  and  so  he  said  to  him- 
self :  "  Well,  you  must  take  issue  with  them  and  speak  only  of  works," 
and  so  he  does.  He  says  not  a  word  of  the  passion  and  resurrection 
of  Christ,  the  text  of  all  the  other  apostles.  Moreover,  he  has  no  order 
nor  method.  He  speaks  now  of  clothes,  now  of  wrath,  jumping  from 
one  topic  to  another.  He  has  this  simile  :  "  For  as  the  body  without 
the  spirit  is  dead,  so  faith  without  works  is  dead  also."  Mary,  mother 
of  God !  He  compares  faith  to  the  body  when  it  should  rather  be 
compared  to  the  soul !  The  ancients  saw  all  this  and  did  not  consider 
the  epistle  canonical. 

Luther's  marginal  notes  in  one  of  his  own  Bibles  are  equally 
trenchant.  To  James  i,  6  (But  let  him  ask  in  faith,  nothing 
wavering),  he  remarks :  "  That  is  the  only  good  place  in  the 

270         THE  LIFE  AND  LETTERS  OF  MARTIN  LUTHER       m 

whole  epistle" ;  to  i,  21  (Receive  with  meekness  the  engrafted 
word),  "  Others  engrafted  it,  not  this  James " ;  to  ii,  12  ff., 
"  What  a  chaos ! "  and  to  ii,  24  (Ye  see  then  that  by  works 
a  man  is  justified,  and  not  by  faith  only),  "  That  is  false." 



The  Recess  of  Augsburg  was  published  in  an  imperial  edict 
of  November  19,  1530,  declaring  that  the  Emperor  and  Estates 
had  resolved  to  remain  in  the  ancient  communion,  that  the 
Protestants  must  therefore  renounce  their  errors  before  the 
fifteenth  of  the  following  April,  that  the  Emperor  would  use 
his  influence  with  the  Pope  for  the  calling  of  the  general  coun- 
cil to  which  the  final  settlement  of  the  religious  difficulties  was 
referred,  and  that  in  the  mean  time  the  bishops  should  be  re- 
stored to  their  former  jurisdictions  and  no  further  innovations 
allowed.  Shortly  after  promulgating  the  edict,  Charles  sum- 
moned the  imperial  electors  to  meet  at  Cologne  for  the  purpose 
of  making  his  brother  Ferdinand  King  of  the  Romans  —  the 
title  regularly  assumed  by  the  Emperor's  destined  successor. 
By  this  means  he  hoped  to  constitute  a  strong,  permanent 
authority  in  Germany  from  which  he  himself  was  generally 
obliged  to  be  absent. 

To  meet  the  exigencies  of  the  situation  thus  presented,  the 
Protestant  princes  and  delegates  from  the  cities  assembled  at 
Schmalkalden,  a  little  town  just  outside  the  borders  of  Elect- 
oral Saxony.  Here,  in  December,  1530,  they  formed  for  mutual 
help  and  protection  an  alliance,  soon  to  become,  under  the 
name  of  the  League  of  Schmalkalden,  one  of  the  great  powers 
of  Europe.  They  then  debated  what  means  should  be  used  to 
withstand  the  Emperor  —  legal  or  military.  Some  pressure 
might  be  brought  to  bear  upon  the  central  government  by  con- 
stitutional means ;  an  obvious  opportunity  to  do  so  occurred  in 
the  election  of  Ferdinand. 

Writing  to  Luther  for  advice  as  to  the  proper  course  to  pur- 
sue, his  sovereign  received  the  following  answer :  — 



(Wittenberg,)  December  12,  1530. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Most  serene,  highborn  Prince,  most  gra- 
cious Lord !  My  dear  friend,  Chancellor  Briick,  has  spoken  privately 
to  me,  by  your  Grace's  command,  asking  my  opinion  in  the  present 
contingency,  namely,  the  election  of  the  King  of  the  Romans,  at 
which  the  Emperor  has  asked  your  presence  in  your  official  capacity. 
Although  in  my  lowly  station  I  cannot  advise  nor  even  know  much 
about  such  important  affairs  —  for  I  have  not  the  advantage  of  seeing 
all  things,  as  does  your  Grace,  from  the  inside,  but  only  from  the  out- 
side and  from  afar  —  yet  will  I  humbly  give  your  Grace  my  thoughts. 

I  hope  your  Grace  will  not  abandon  your  intention  of  taking  part 
in  the  election,  for  if  you  do,  the  enemy  will  find  cause  to  take  away 
your  vote.  But  if  your  Grace  assists  at  this  election,  you  will  be 
thereby  confirmed  in  your  vote  and  your  fief,  and  their  crafty  strata- 
gem to  ruin  your  Grace  will  be  frustrated.  .  .  . 

Let  your  Grace  be  assured  that  it  is  no  sin  to  vote  for  a  political 
enemy  of  the  Evangelic  faith,  for  your  Grace  alone  could  not  hinder 
his  election  which  would  take  place  anyway,  so  that  you  will  be 
obliged,  under  any  circumstances,  to  obey  an  Emperor  who  rejects 
the  Gospel.  Moreover,  it  might  happen  that  if  your  Grace  were  ab- 
sent, your  vote  would  be  given  to  Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony 
or  to  some  one  else.  .  .  . 

Your  Grace  must  know  that  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse  has  spontane- 
ously caused  himself  to  be  inscribed  a  citizen  of  Zurich,1  which  causes 
me  little  pleasure ;  for  unless  God  help  and  protect  us  war  must  come 
from  that  alliance.  Your  Grace  knows  that  in  such  a  war  the  Swiss 
will  protect  the  sacramentarian  heresy,  if  not  force  it  upon  us,  which 
God  forbid.  For  they  have  not  yet  recanted ;  they  fight  not  because 
it  is  necessary  but  to  uphold  their  error.  O  God !  in  these  worldly 
matters  I  am  too  childish  simple  !  I  pray  and  will  pray  God  to  guard 
and  guide  your  Grace  as  heretofore ;  or,  if  worst  comes  to  worst,  that 
he  will  give  us  his  grace  and  a  blessed  end.  Amen.  Your  Grace  will 
take  my  simple  talk  in  good  part.  I  speak  as  I  understand.  .  .  . 

Your  Grace's  subject, 

Martin  Luther. 

1  For  the  alliance  of  Hesse,  Zurich,  and  Constance,  formed  July  30,  1530,  see 
above,  p.  260. 


The  "  simple  talk  "  failed  to  convince  John,  who  sent  his 
son,  John  Frederic,  to  protest  against  the  election.  As  Luther 
predicted,  the  action  of  Saxony  did  not  prevent  the  choice  of 
Ferdinand  by  the  six  other  princes  (January  5,  1531),  and  it 
was  also  made  the  excuse  for  a  proposal  to  deprive  the  absent 
member  of  his  vote. 

While  advising  against  extra-legal  means  of  resisting  the 
Catholics,  Luther  continued  the  warfare  with  his  pen.  The  Re- 
cess of  Augsburg,  together  with  the  Refutation  of  the  Protestant 
Confession,  was  printed  early  in  1531.  The  Wittenberg  pro- 
fessor answered  at  once  in  two  pamphlets :  A  Commentary  on 
the  Putative  Imperial  Edict,  and  A  Warning  to  his  dear  Ger- 
mans. In  the  former  he  protests  that  he  would  not  have  what 
he  now  says  understood  of  the  pious  Emperor  or  against  any 
authority,  but  only  against  the  wicked  advisers  who  usurped 
their  lord's  power.  He  refutes  their  refutation  point  by  point, 
and  designates  their  claim  to  have  conquered  him  by  Scripture 
as  a  plain  lie.  In  the  second  pamphlet  he  recalls  his  Warning 
to  the  Clergy  at  Augsburg,  in  which  he  had  so  heartily  begged 
for  peace  but  they  had  despised  his  prayer.  Now  they  accuse 
him  of  sedition  and  rebellion.  He  defends  the  Protestants  from 
this  charge,  by  making  a  distinction  between  those  who  resist 
authority  simply  to  become  masters  themselves  and  those  who 
merely  defend  their  rights.  The  former  is  wrong,  the  latter 

.  These  pamphlets  were  at  once  denounced  by  the  Catholics  as 
seditious  and  libellous.  Duke  George  especially  sent  a  remon- 
strance to  his  cousin  John  of  Ernestine  Saxony,  who  in  turn  re- 
quested his  subject  to  refrain  from  violence  in  future. 
Luther  replied  with  the  following  indignant  protest :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  April  16,  1531. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Most  serene,  highborn  Prince,  most  gra- 
cious Lord  !  The  esteemed  and  learned  Dr.  Gregory  Bruck  has  sent 
me  your  Grace's  letter  forbidding  me  to  publish  sharp  or  violent  books, 
of  which  I  have  recently  written  two  with  the  purpose  of  preventing 
injustice.  .  .  . 


First,  I  can  show  that  in  these  two  sharp  books  I  have  said  nothing 
turbulent  nor  incited  any  man  to  sedition ;  this  I  will  maintain  against 
every  one,  God  willing. 

Secondly,  it  is  clear  that  in  these  books  I  have  highly  praised  and 
celebrated  the  Emperor ;  in  short  I  have  proposed  nothing  except  that 
Christians  should  judge  conscientiously  and  discover  the  bad  practices 
and  abuses  perpetrated  in  the  Emperor's  name,  so  that  pious  hearts 
may  remain  untroubled  and  unseduced. 

Thirdly,  I  think  that  your  Grace  should  remember  how  your  party 
worked  against  the  edict  at  Augsburg,  thereby  acting  in  a  Christian, 
upright  way,  letting  every  one  know  that  you  protested  against  it. 

But  yet  they  incontinently  condemned  our  Confession,  without  letting 
us  have  their  Refutation  to  answer  it,  and  they  did  not  hear  our  prayers 
for  peace,  but  passed  a  menacing,  atrocious,  bloodthirsty,  false  edict, 
thereby,  if  truth  be  spoken,  drawing  the  sword  against  your  Grace  and 
our  party,  and  setting  the  whole  Empire  at  odds  —  for  one  cannot 
mince  words  in  such  matters.  Moreover  your  Grace  and  our  party 
have  kept  silence  for  more  than  six  months,  showing  abundant  and 
perilous  patience  without  accomplishing  anything  thereby,  for  it  has 
only  made  our  antagonists  more  proud,  confident,  and  arbitrary ;  where- 
fore I  was  obliged  to  speak  for  fear  they  would  not  be  checked  until 
they  had  ruined  us.  If  your  Grace  and  the  other  leaders  of  our  party 
wish  to  suffer  in  eternal  silence,  nevertheless  I  have  not  the  patience, 
especially  as  the  cause  is  originally  and  chiefly  mine.  If  I  should  fin- 
ally acquiesce  in  this  public  condemnation  of  my  teaching,  it  would  be 
tantamount  to  abandoning  or  denying  it ;  sooner  than  do  this  I  would 
incur  the  wrath  of  all  the  world  and  of  all  devils,  not  to  mention  his 
Imperial  Majesty's  advisers. 

Certain  persons  have  represented  to  your  Grace  that  my  books  are 
sharp  and  vehement.  This,  indeed,  is  true,  for  I  can  write  nothing  on 
this  subject  soft  and  mild.  I  am  only  sorry  that  what  I  write  on  this 
subject  is  not  still  more  cutting  and  violent,  for  compared  to  the  sharp- 
ness of  their  actions  my  speech  is  not  sharp  at  all.  It  is  no  mild,  gen- 
tle act  to  publish  such  an  edict  against  your  Grace  and  your  friends, 
not  allowing  you  to  speak  in  your  own  defence,  but  drawing  the  sword 
of  wrath  and  trying  to  fill  Germany  with  blood  and  with  widows 'and 

When  did  the  Catholics  ever  punish  the  scurrilous  writings  published 
against  us  ?  .  .  .  Your  Grace  may  see  that  these  people  think  it  right 
and  fine  for  a  hundred  thousand  authors  to  write  against  us,  every  sheet 
of  whose  voluminous  works  is  full  of  poison  and  gall.  .  .  .  But  if  I, 


poor  man,  alone  cry  out  against  these  monsters,  then  no  one  has  written 
sharply  but  only  Luther  !  ...  In  short,  whatever  I  do  or  say  is  wrong, 
even  if  I  should  raise  the  dead ;  whatever  they  do  is  right,  even  if  they 
should  drench  Germany  with  innocent  blood !  Yet  one  must  fight  these 
people  with  cotton  wool,  bow  to  them  and  say :  "  Gracious  sirs,  how 
pious  and  fair  you  are !  "  .  .  . 

Your  Grace's  obedient  subject, 

Martin  Luther. 

The  day  set  for  the  final  recantation  of  the  Protestants 
—  April  15,  1531  —  passed  without  any  attempt  being  made  to 
coerce  them.  On  the  contrary  negotiations  still  continued  and 
a  new  diet  was  summoned  to  meet  at  Ratisbon  in  January, 
1532.  Luther  had  little  hopes  of  any  agreement ;  as  he  wrote 
Amsdorf  on  August  26,  1531 :  — 

Whether  there  will  be  a  diet  or  not  I  cannot  say.  I  know,  however, 
that  whether  there  is  one  or  not,  agreement  is  impossible ;  for  who  can 
reconcile  Christ  and  Belial,  or  how  can  the  Pope  concede  that  faith 
alone  justifies  and  that  the  works  of  popery  are  damnable,  or  how  can 
he  withdraw  and  let  Luther  reign  ? 

The  Estates  met  as  appointed,  but  it  was  not  here  that  nego- 
tiations were  carried  on  but  at  Nuremberg.  The  Catholics  were 
represented  by  the  Electors  of  Mayence  and  of  the  Palatinate, 
to  whom  Ferdinand  delegated  plenary  powers,  and  the  Protest- 
ants by  the  Elector  of  Saxony.  As  a  result  of  the  conference 
a  treaty,  known  as  the  Religious  Peace  of  Nuremberg,  binding 
each  party  to  respect  the  faith  of  the  other  until  an  cecumenic 
council  should  be  called  to  decide  all  religious  questions,  was 
signed  by  the  delegates  on  July  23  and  received  the  sanction  of 
the  Emperor  and  Estates  on  August  2.  The  result  was  a  diplo- 
matic victory  for  the  Lutherans,  giving  them  time  in  which  to 
grow  and  for  an  indefinite  period  a  recognized  legal  status  in  the 

The  Elector  John  did  not  long  live  to  enjoy  the  fruits  of  this 
triumph.  He  died  on  August  16  and  was  buried  in  the  Castle 
Church  at  Wittenberg  two  days  later.  In  officiating  at  the  fu- 
neral the  Reformer  wept  unaffectedly  for  his  departed  sovereign. 
On  the  day  of  the  interment  he  spoke  as  follows  at  dinner :  — 


The  bells  sound  differently  when  we  know  they  ring  for  a  dead 
friend.  ...  In  John  we  saw  the  greatest  clemency,  in  Frederic  the 
greatest  wisdom  ;  had  the  two  princes  been  united  it  would  have  been 
a  miracle.  .  .  .  How  great  a  prince  has  now  died,  and  how  lonely,  for 
no  son,  cousin,  nor  friend  was  with  him.  The  physicians  say  that  a  con- 
vulsion killed  him. 

Four  days  after  this,  Luther  said  to  the  new  elector,  John 
Frederic,  as  they  were  dining  together  at  Wittenberg  :  — 

The  death  of  a  prince  is  a  much  more  pitiful  thing  than  that  of  a 
peasant.  A  prince  must  be  left  by  all  his  friends  and  nobles  and  at 
last  strive  alone  with  the  devil,  for  no  one  will  remind  him  that  he 
has  lived  like  a  prince. 

John  Frederic  the  Magnanimous  was  twenty-nine  when  he 
succeeded  his  father.  Like  Philip  of  Hesse  he  belonged  to  a  gen- 
eration more  susceptible  to  the  influence  of  the  new  teaching. 
Brought  up  by  Spalatin  in  a  strongly  Lutheran  atmosphere,  he 
was  a  yet  more  ardent  disciple  of  the  Reformer  than  his  father 
had  been.  The  Wittenberg  professor  at  first  had  some  doubts  of 
the  youth :  — 

With  the  Elector  Frederic,  wisdom  died,  with  the  Elector  John, 
piety.  Now  the  nobles  will  reign  and  piety  will  vanish.  They  know 
that  my  young  lord  has  a  mind  of  his  own  and  that  he  does  not  care 
for  learning,  and  that  pleases  them  much.  The  nobles  preach  opinion 
to  him.  Let  them  look  to  it  that  they  do  not  put  the  land  through 
a  sweat  bath  and  then  lay  the  people  on  the  pavement  to  cool  off.  If 
the  Elector  only  had  his  uncle's  wisdom  and  his  father's  piety  I  would 
like  also  his  insistence  on  having  his  own  way  and  wish  him  success 
with  it. 

In  this  case,  however,  familiarity  bred  respect,  for  Luther 
came  to  have  an  increasingly  high  opinion  of  his  prince.  About 
1540  he  said  :  — 

We  certainly  have  a  prince  adorned  with  many  gifts.  He  has  a 
reverend  tongue  and  listens  to  no  base  or  blasphemous  word.  He 
loves  the  Bible,  schools  and  churches  ;  he  upholds  a  heavy  weight  and 
alone  keeps  the  faith.  He  would  gladly  attend  to  everything,  but  he 
cannot.  His  only  vice  is  that  he  drinks  too  much  with  his  friends 
and  perhaps  he  also  builds  too  much.  But  he  works  like  a  donkey. 
If  we  did  not  pray  earnestly  for  him  we  should  not  do  right. 


After  the  peace  of  Nuremberg  languid  negotiations  looking 
to  a  more  definite  settlement  still  continued.  The  main  question 
was  the  calling  of  a  council.  Pope  Clement,  who  desired  nothing 
less  than  such  an  assembly,  procrastinated.  In  June,  1533,  am- 
bassadors from  him  and  the  Emperor  came  to  treat  with  John 
Frederic  on  the  subject.  The  Elector  took  them  to  Wittenberg 
to  consult  Luther.  A  letter  from  the  latter  to  an  old  friend 
partly  explains  why  the  conference  was  futile :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  June  16,  1533. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Dear  Nicholas,  I  have  not  leisure  to 
write  at  length  on  account  of  the  presence  of  the  Most  Illustrious 
Elector,  before  whom  I  daily  preach,  and  with  whom  I  have  to  confer 
on  the  answer  to  be  given  to  the  papal  and  imperial  ambassadors. 
The  Pope  has  sent  them  to  propose  to  us  certain  articles  about  calling 
a  council,  in  which  he  intends  that  all  shall  be  done  according  to  his 
pleasure  ;  that  is,  that  we  should  be  condemned  and  burned  ;  but 
he  conceals  his  purpose  with  slippery  words  worthy  of  himself.  We 
shall  return  an  answer  worthy  both  of  himself  and  of  ourselves. 
They  are  rascals  to  the  core  and  will  remain  so.  The  ambassa- 
dors are  treated  most  honorably,  not  on  account  of  the  Pope  but 
on  account  of  the  Emperor,  whose  name  we  reverence  while  despis- 
ing that  of  the  Pope.  The  ambassadors  have  spoken  to  neither 
me  nor  to  Melanchthon  nor  to  any  of  our  theologians.  Why  indeed 
should  the  servants  of  our  despoilers  and  murderers  hear  us?  More 
at  another  time.    At  present  farewell  in  the  Lord  and  pray  for  me. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

What  could  not  be  obtained  by  peaceful  means  was  some- 
times wrested  by  force.  Of  the  numerous  gains  made  by  the 
Protestants  in  the  early  thirties,  the  most  important  was  the 
conquest  of  Wurttemberg  by  Philip  of  Hesse  in  May,  1534.  The 
tyrannical  Duke  Ulrich  had  been  expropriated  some  fifteen  years 
previous  by  the  Swabian  League  and  the  territory  given  by  the 
new  emperor  to  his  brother  Ferdinand.  After  many  unsuccess- 
ful attempts  to  reconquer  his  dominions,  Ulrich  at  last  found  an 
opportunity,  by  embracing  the  Protestant  religion,  to  secure 
the  military  support  of  their  ablest  statesman.  The  campaign 
was,  however,  undertaken  contrary  to  the  advice  of  the  reformers, 


true  to  their  pacific  principles.  Their  meeting  with  Philip  at 
Weimar,  in  January,  1533,  as  well  as  the  result  of  the  cam- 
paign, is  described  by  Luther  in  a  saying  recorded  some  seven 
years  later :  — 

Philip  of  Hesse  undertakes  much  and  accomplishes  much.  Great  was 
his  audacity  to  oppose  the  bishops,1  but  greater  to  restore  the  Duke 
of  Wtirttemberg  and  expel  Ferdinand.  Melanchthon  and  I  dissuaded 
him  from  doing  this  with  all  our  powers  at  Weimar,  thinking  that  he 
would  bring  shame  on  the  Evangelic  cause  and  disturb  the  peace. 
He  got  all  hot  and  red,  though  he  is  usually  pale.  ...  So  he  kept  on 
and  did  what  he  said  he  would  and  fired  three  hundred  and  fifty  shots 
into  the  city  and  castle  2  and  waited  for  an  answer  at  Cadan.  Duke 
George  said  to  Ferdinand :  "  If  you  could  only  raise  an  army  in  two 
or  three  days,  I  would  not  advise  peace,  but  as  you  can't  you  must 
come  to  terms." 

1  Of  Bamberg  and  Wiirzburg  at  the  time  of  the  Pack  affair,  1528.  Cf.  sttpra, 
p.  224. 

2  Asperg,  June  1  and  2, 1534. 



The  philosopher,  says  a  great  historian,  may  indulge  in  the 
pleasing  task  of  portraying  Religion  as  she  descended  white- 
robed  from  Heaven ;  it  is  the  melancholy  duty  of  the  historian 
to  show  how  she  has  been  maltreated  by  men,  and  her  immacu- 
late garments  torn  and  spotted  by  human  passion.  The  early 
annals  of  the  Protestant,  as  of  the  Apostolic  Church,  are  full  of 
difficulty  and  dissension.  After  the  peace  of  Nuremberg  had 
given  the  Protestants  a  firm  position  against  the  Roman  Catho- 
lics, the  main  energies  of  the  reformers  were  applied  to  fighting 
each  other  and  dealing  with  the  numerous  contrarieties  which 
arose  in  their  own  folds. 

A  main  problem  with  all  associations  as  with  all  individuals 
is  the  financial  one.  This  chronic  difficulty  is  thus  spoken  of 
in  a  letter  from  Luther  to  John  Sutel  of  Gottingen,  March  1, 
1531:  — 

I  see  your  friends  are  worried  for  fear  they  will  have  to  pay  their 
ministers  a  little  more.  .  .  .  Formerly  the  people  gave  thousands  of 
guldens  to  every  impostor  that  came  along,  whereas  now  they  won't 
give  any  man  a  hundred.  Let  them  go  to.  It  is  better  for  them  to  serve 
the  Pope  and  be  subject  to  the  devil  than  to  lord  it  over  Christ  and 
trample  on  his  Word.  Many  such  cases  come  up  elsewhere,  but  the 
Lord  knows  his  own.  They  imagine  that  we  must  flatter  them  and 
could  not  do  without  them.  This  is  not  to  seek  the  gospel  earnestly. 

About  the  time  that  Luther  was  writing  this  discouraged 
note  a  perfect  tempest  was  brewing  at  Zwickau  —  a  tempest  in 
a  teapot,  to  be  sure,  but  one  which  occupies  more  space  in  the 
Reformer's  correspondence  and  table-talk,  than  do  the  Diet  of 
"Worms  and  the  Peasants'  Revolt  put  together.  The  cause 
of  the  disturbance  was  the  expulsion  of  a  clergyman,  Lawrence 
Soranus,  early  in  1531,  by  the  town  council.  The  accused  se- 


cured  the  interest  of  the  government  and  of  Luther,  who  wrote 
the  following  vigorous  letter  to  one  of  the  principal  citizens :  — 


(Wittenberg),  March  4, 1531. 
Grace  and  peace  in  the  Lord.  Among  many  sorrows  undergone  in 
the  ministry  of  God's  Word,  I  feel  keenly,  my  dear  Stephen,  that  you 
and  your  fellow  citizens  show  such  overbearing  contempt  for  God  and 
his  ministers.  You  have  cast  out  Lawrence  Soranus  with  ignominy, 
branded  with  a  public  punishment,  though  not  convicted  of  crime  nor 
even  heard  in  his  own  defence,  and  every  one  cries  out  that  you,  Roth, 
were  the  author  and  perpetrator  of  this  crime.  Excuse  yourself  as 
much  as  you  like,  you  will  never  clear  yourself  of  this  arbitrary,  or 
rather  presumptuous  act,  done  without  the  knowledge  and  consent  of 
your  excellent  pastor  Hausmann,  who  had  every  right  to  know  and 
participate  in  the  proceedings.  Do  you  really  think,  my  dear  young 
fellows,  that  you  can  domineer  in  the  Church,  appropriate  and  steal 
revenues  which  you  have  not  given,  and  can  distribute  them  to  whom 
you  wish  as  if  you  were  lords  over  the  Church  ?  I  am  minded  to  write 
a  book  to  humble  you  and  those  beasts  of  Zwickau  and  to  make  a  pub- 
lic example  of  your  iniquity,  as  the  Lord  lives.  This  is  the  thanks  that 
you  give  us,  friends,  for  our  sweat  and  agony  in  the  service  of  God's 
Word.  I  wish  you  and  yours  excluded  from  the  communion  of  my 
Lord  Jesus  Christ  so  that  you  and  all  may  see  how  safe  you  are  in 
your  pride.  May  the  Lord  Jesus  confound  the  undertakings  of  you  all. 
Amen.  Martin  Luther. 

Roth  and  the  town  council  replied,  standing  by  their  former 
action,  and  expressing  surprise  at  Luther's  hasty  judgment. 
The  other  local  preachers,  Hausmann  and  Cordatus,  encouraged 
by  support  from  headquarters,  took  the  part  of  Soranus,  and 
the  quarrel  soon  made  their  position  as  untenable  as  his.  Cor- 
datus, a  man  of  passionate  temper,  was  the  first  to  be  obliged 
to  go.  He  would  have  preferred  to  stay  even  at  some  personal 
risk,  but  his  chief,  more  gentle  in  deed  than  in  word,  advised 
him  "  to  leave  that  Babylon  and  give  place  to  wrath."  Cordatus 
accordingly  came  to  Wittenberg,  where  he  was  for  ten  months 
the  guest  of  the  Black  Cloister,  during  which  time  he  made  a 
collection  of  his  host's  table-talk,  naturally  recording  the  many 
violent  denunciations  of  "  that  cursed,  recalcitrant  city." 


In  hopes  of  composing  the  quarrel  a  meeting  was  arranged 
between  Luther,  Jonas,  Hausmann,  and  Cordatus,  and  some 
representatives  of  Zwickau,  headed  by  the  burgomaster  Miihl- 
pfort,  to  whom  in  happier  times  the  Reformer  had  dedicated  his 
work  on  the  Liberty  of  a  Christian  Man.  As  the  altercation 
waxed  hot,  Miihlpfort  said,  "  Doctor,  you  will  never  bring  us 
under  another  Pope :  we  have  learned  too  much  for  that "  ;  to 
which  Luther  replied,  "  Is  it  not  a  curse  on  me  that  I  have 
made  others  so  learned  and  yet  know  nothing  myself  ?  " 

The  attempt  came  to  nothing,  and  Hausmann  was  eventually 
forced  to  follow  Cordatus.  On  November  22  his  leader  invited 
him  thus  :  — 

I  write  again  to  beg  you  for  Christ's  sake  to  come  to  me  as  soon  as 
possible.  There  is  a  little  new  room  waiting  for  you.  Think  not  that 
you  will  be  a  burden  to  me,  but  rather  a  support  and  a  solace. 

Hausmann  accepted  the  invitation.  In  the  autumn  of  1532 
he  found  employment  as  court  preacher  to  the  princes  of  Anhalt 
at  Dessau,  and  in  1538  accepted  a  call  to  his  native  town  Frei- 
berg. His  death  on  October  17  of  that  year  was  a  great  blow  to 
Luther,  who  burst  into  tears  upon  hearing  of  it. 

Before  the  storm  at  Zwickau  had  been  laid,  another  dissension 
arose  at  Nuremberg.  Osiander,  a  reformed  priest  who  had 
taken  a  prominent  part  in  the  Diet  held  here  in  1523,  endeavored, 
about  ten  years  later,  to  abolish  the  practice  of  private  con- 
fession. The  stricter  party,  headed  by  Link,  opposed  this  step, 
referred  the  question  to  Wittenberg,  and  received  an  answer, 
dated  April  18,  1533,  from  Luther  and  Melanchthon,  to  the 
effect  that  public  and  private  confession  might  well  be  contin- 
ued at  the  same  time.  Osiander  refused  to  bow  to  the  decision, 
and  for  a  long  time  harbored  resentment  against  the  other 
clergymen.  Luther  treated  the  matter  in  a  large  and  conciliatory 
spirit,  writing  Link  on  October  8  :  — 

I  pray  you  for  Christ's  sake  not  to  close  the  eyes  of  mercy,  but 
consider  how  far  the  man  is  captured  and  sick  with  his  own  opinion, 
and  therefore  try  not  to  confound  or  condemn  him  publicly,  lest  from 
this  spark  a  conflagration  should  arise.  Endeavor  rather  to  free  and 


heal  him  by  the  exercise  of  moderation,  patience,  and  prudence,  study- 
ing only  how  to  profit  his  soul. 

The  threatened  breach  happily  yielded  to  this  gentle  treat- 
ment, and  Luther  was  able  to  write  Osiander  an  affectionate 
letter  styling  him  the  true  partner  of  his  faith.1 

Far  different  was  the  result  of  another  schism,  which  tore 
the  very  heart  of  the  Evangelic  Church  before  it  was  quelled. 
The  leader  of  the  Antinomian  heresy —  so  the  new  sect  was 
denominated  —  was  John  Agricola,  a  native  of  Eisleben,  about 
ten  years  younger  than  his  great  compatriot.  His  ambition  was 
not  satisfied,  with  the  humble  position  of  village  schoolmaster, 
and  he  several  times  brought  himself  into  prominence,  notably 
by  an  attack  on  Melanchthon  during  the  church  visitation  of 
1527.  His  abilities  and  his  personal  friendship  for  Luther 
moved  the  latter  to  nominate  him  for  a  position  in  the  univers- 
ity. During  the  Reformer's  absence  at  Schmalkalden  in  the 
early  part  of  1537,  Agricola  and  his  family  were  guests  at  the 
Black  Cloister,  while  he  assisted  in  supplying  the  vacancy  caused 
by  his  host's  absence,  taking  some  of  the  professorial  and  pas- 
toral duties. 

It  was  now  first  noticed  that  his  theology  was  not  free  from 
the  taint  of  false  doctrine  ;  he  was  accused  of  teaching  justifica- 
tion by  faith  to  the  disparagement  of  morality,  asserting,  it  was 
charged,  that  as  long  as  a  believer  was  in  a  state  of  grace  it 
made  little  difference  what  he  did  or  what  sins  he  might  com- 
mit. On  his  return  Luther  felt  obliged  to  preach  against  this 
doctrine,  and  the  Elector  prohibited  Agricola  from  the  pulpit. 
In  December  the  Reformer  issued  a  series  of  propositions,  con- 
taining the  gist  of  the  Antinomian  doctrine,  intending  to  de- 
bate them  with  its  leader.  The  man  against  whom  they  were 
directed  declined  the  challenge,  and,  in  January,  1538,  gave 
such  quieting  assurances  that  he  was  again  allowed  to  preach. 
Hardly  had  he  been  forgiven,  however,  before  he  gave  new 
offence.  He  issued  a  stronger  statement  of  his  previous  posi- 
tion, defending  it  by  quotations  from  the  Reformer's  own  works. 
Luther  was  irritated  both  by  the  contents  and  the  manner  of 
the  apology ;  he  saw  that  Agricola's  doctrine  was  dangerous  to 
1  June  3,  1545.  Burkhardt :  Luther"1 $  Brief wechsel. 


morality  and  proposed  to  suppress  it  whether  supported  by 
former  expressions  of  his  own  or  not.  He  accordingly  issued 
a  pamphlet  against  the  Antinomians  early  in  1539,  to  which 
Agricola  promptly  responded  with  a  list  of  rather  enigmatical 
theses,  thus  explained  by  one .  of  the  reporters  of  the  table- 
talk  :  — 

January  31,  1539,  Dr.  Martin  Luther  read  Agricola's  propositions 
for  debate.  They  were  all  about  Jonathan  and  Saul.  ...  At  last  he 
understood  the  deceit  of  Agricola,  who  played  with  allegories  and 
double  meanings,  and  yet  exposed  himself  in  all  his  thoughts.  .  .  . 
His  meaning  was  that  Jonathan  was  himself,  who  ate  honey,  that  is, 
preached  the  gospel,  but  that  Saul  was  Luther,  who  forbade  the  use 
of  this  honey  in  the  Church.  When  the  doctor  had  at  last  fathomed 
this  meaning  he  exclaimed :  "  O  Agricola,  are  you  such  a  man  ?  May 
God  forgive  you  for  being  so  bitter  and  thinking  that  I  am  your 
enemy.  God  is  witness  that  I  loved  you  and  yet  do.  Why  don't  you 
come  out  openly  and  not  fight  so  treacherously  ?  " 

During  the  long  controversy  the  poison  had  spread  to  other 
parts.  When  Melanchthon  went  to  the  Congress  of  Frankfort 
in  February,  1539,  he  wrote  accounts  of  other  Antinomians 
who  had  made  themselves  known.  At  the  same  time  Luther 
heard  that  the  heresy  was  being  taught  at  Saalfeld  and  other 
places,  as  he  wrote  his  friend  on  March  2.  On  the  same  day, 
probably,  he  said :  — 

Satan,  like  a  furious  harlot,  rages  in  the  Antinomians,  as  Melanch- 
thon writes  from  Frankfort.  The  devil  will  do  much  harm  through 
them  and  cause  infinite  and  vexatious  evils.  If  they  carry  their  law- 
less principles  into  the  State  as  well  as  the  Church,  the  magistrate  will 
say :  I  am  a  Christian,  therefore  the  law  does  not  pertain  to  me. 
Even  a  Christian  hangman  would  repudiate  the  law.  If  they  teach 
only  free  grace,  infinite  licence  will  follow  and  all  discipline  will  be 
at  an  end. 

The  strain  between  the  two  protagonists  at  Wittenberg  con- 
tinued without  coming  to  an  open  breach.  Indeed,  sundry 
attempts  were  made  to  bring  about  a  reconciliation,  and  on  one 
occasion,  apparently  in  January  or  February,  1540,1  Luther 

1  The  date  is  doubtful.  The  story  was  noted  by  one  of  the  guests,  Spangen- 
berg  of  Nordhausen,  in  his  Bible,  and  taken  from  him  by  Aurifaber  into  his  col- 


invited  his  opponent  with  other  theologians  to  a  banquet  at  his 

When  they  had  eaten  and  made  merry  Dr.  Martin  Luther  took  a 
glass  which  had  three  rings  around  it  marking  divisions.  Pledging  his 
guests  in  this  he  said  to  Agricola :  "  Friend  Agricola,  note  this  glass  ; 
the  first  division  is  the  Ten  Commandments,  the  second  the  Creed, 
the  third  the  Lord's  Prayer  ;  the  glass  itself  which  contains  them  is 
the  Catechism."  Then  he  drank  all  the  wine  in  the  glass,  and  filling 
it  again  gave  it  to  Agricola.  But  he  could  only  drink  the  upper 
division,  nay,  he  was  obliged  to  set  the  glass  down  and  could  not  bear 
even  to  look  at  it  again.  Then  said  Luther  :  "  I  knew  well  that  Agri- 
cola could  drink  the  Ten  Commandments,  but  that  he  would  leave  the 
Creed,  the  Lord's  Prayer,  and  the  Catechism  alone." 

In  March  Agricola  laid  a  complaint  against  Luther  before 
the  Elector,  saying  that  he  had  been  trampled  on  for  three 
years  by  his  enemy  and  had  never  taught  the  doctrine  of  which 
he  was  accused.  Before  the  committee  of  theologians  appointed 
to  investigate  the  merits  of  the  case  had  come  to  a  conclusion, 
Agricola  had  the  opportunity  to  leave  Wittenberg  to  accept 
a  position  in  Brandenburg.  He  eagerly  embraced  this  offer,  in 
June,  1540.  Even  here,  however,  he  found  that  the  friendship  of 
the  Wittenbergers  was  desirable. 

Luther,  however,  steadily  refused  to  forgive  him  unless  he 
recanted  in  the  following  formula :  "  I  was  a  fool  and  wronged 
the  Wittenberg  divines  ;  they  teach  aright  and  I  wronged  them 
much.  I  repent  from  my  heart  and  beg  for  God's  sake  that 
they  will  forgive  me."  The  breach  was  therefore  never  healed. 
The  Antinomian  played  in  the  religious  history  of  the  time 
a  chequered  part  which  gave  some  color  to  Luther's  designation 
of  him  as  a  chameleon. 

The  most  important  follower  of  the  Antinomian  was  James 
Schenk  of  Freiberg.  Notwithstanding  some  complaints  against 
him  he  was  called  to  be  court  preacher  to  the  Elector  in  July, 
1538.  While  on  a  visit  to  Lochau,  September  10  and  11, 
Luther  heard  Schenk  preach  and  afterwards  invited  him  to  a 

lection  of  table-talk  (Forstemann-Bindseil,  ii,  144)  where  the  date  1540  is  given. 
Many  of  the  dates  in  Aurifaber  are  incorrect,  but  if  this  is  right  it  seems  likely 
that  the  banquet  took  place  before  Agricola 's  complaint  to  the  Elector  in  March. 


meal  for  the  purpose  of  coming  to  an  understanding.  Schenk, 
when  accused  of  teaching  false  doctrine,  said :  "  I  must  speak 
as  I  do  for  the  sake  of  Christ's  blood  and  precious  passion ;  the 
great  pain  of  my  conscience  forces  me  to  it.  ...  I  have  a  God 
as  well  as  you."  After  some  vain  expostulation  Luther  replied : 
"If  you  are  so  badly  torn  the  devil  must  mend  you.  Poor 
Freiberg  will  never  get  over  it,  but  God  will  destroy  him  who 
has  violated  the  temple.  The  proverb  says  *  Bad  mind,  bad 
heart.'  A  desperate  bad  fellow."  To  this  Schenk  only  retorted : 
"  If  I  make  the  court  as  pious  as  you  have  made  the  world,  it 
will  be  all  up." 

He  soon  lost  his  position  with  the  orthodox  sovereign,  and, 
failing  to  find  another,  wandered  around  for  some  years  in  deep 
poverty,  until,  about  1545,  he  died,  apparently  either  of  starv- 
ation or  by  his  own  hand.  On  Luther,  who  in  his  later  years 
occasionally  spoke  of  "  Grickel  and  Jackel "  (Agricola  and 
James  Schenk)  as  lost  men,  the  unhappy  altercation  left  an 
abiding  and  melancholy  impression. 

Other  fierce,  if  petty,  quarrels  broke  out  in  Luther's  im- 
mediate circle.  By  a  bit  of  dramatic  irony  the  centre  of  these 
storms  was  the  peace-loving  Melanchthon.  This  highly  gifted 
teacher  and  writer  by  his  very  wish  to  please  all  men  laid 
himself  open  to  the  charge  of  holding  the  faith  and  the  in- 
terests of  his  Church  too  lightly.  While  Luther  was  absent 
at  the  Wartburg,  the  fatal  weakness  of  Philip's  character  had 
been  revealed  in  his  dealings  with  the  Zwickau  prophets.  A 
few  years  later  he  had  been  attacked  by  Agricola  for  his  sup- 
posed backsliding  to  Catholicism.  In  1530  at  Augsburg  he 
had  drawn  down  upon  himself  the  cutting  animadversions  of 
more  resolute  if  less  talented  Protestants  by  his  concessions 
to  the  enemy.  In  1536  again  Cordatus  scented  heresy  in 
Melanchthon's  teaching.  The  quarrel  was  suspended  during  the 
absence  and  illness  of  Luther  at  Schmalkalden,  but  later  was 
renewed  with  greater  violence,  Cordatus  calling  his  younger 
but  more  noted  antagonist  "  a  crab  crawling  on  the  cross." 
James  Schenk,  too,  of  Antinomian  notoriety,  in  his  orthodox 
days  attacked  Melanchthon  with  almost  equal  fierceness. 

At  times  it  seemed  as  if  the  relations  of  the  two  leading 


reformers  of  Wittenberg  would  become  strained.  Luther  took 
very  ill  the  approaches  made  by  Melanchthon  to  his  opponents, 
whether  papist  or  sacramentarian.  He  was  angry  when,  in 
return  for  a  good  sum  of  money,  his  friend  dedicated  a  book 
to  Albert  of  Mayence  ;  he  disliked  the  action  of  his  colleague^ 
and  of  Bucer  when,  in  the  reformation  at  Cologne,  they 
seemed  to  slur  over  the  doctrine  of  the  sacrament  for  the  sake 
of  unity. 

On  the  other  side,  too,  the  younger  man  often  felt  the  influ- 
ence of  his  older  friend  dictatorial  and  overbearing.  Once  or 
twice  it  seemed  that  he  tried  to  free  himself  from  it,  but  always 
anxiously  avoided  an  open  quarrel.  His  wife,  moreover,  was 
jealous  of  Katie,  for  according  to  the  rule  of  academic  etiquette, 
the  doctor's  wife  preceded  the  master's. 

But  fortunately  the  mutual  strain  never  came  to  an  open 
breach.  The  pair  had  too  much  respect  and  affection  to  allow 
that.  Luther  was  greatly  impressed  by  his  friend's  intellectual 
excellence  and  splendid  services  to  the  common  cause.  Not 
only  in  his  writings  but  by  his  active  participation  in  politics, 
Melanchthon  did  a  great  deal  for  the  Protestant  cause.  After 
the  Diet  of  Augsburg  he  was  the  most  active,  though  not  the 
most  powerful,  theologian  of  the  reformed  faith.  He  was  almost 
always  present  at  the  diets  and  conferences  from  which  Luther 
was  kept  by  his  health,  and  it  was  Melanchthon  rather  than 
his  friend  who  was  invited  by  the  kings  of  France  and  England 
to  visit  their  capitals.  Katie  may  have  felt  some  jealousy  now 
and  then,  but  her  magnanimous  husband  was  never  tired  of 
celebrating  his  friend.  Among  many  testimonies  of  his  affec- 
tion and  respect,  the  following  are  important. 

August  1,  1537,  Luther  wrote  on  his  table :  — 

Deeds  and  words,  Melanchthon, 
Words  without  deeds,  Erasmus, 
Deeds  without  words,  Luther, 
Neither  words  nor  deeds,  Carlstadt. 

While  he  was  writing,  Melanchthon  and  Basil  Monner  entered 
by  chance.  Melanchthon  said  that  Luther  had  spoken  truly  of 
Erasmus  and  Carlstadt,  but  that  he  had  spoken  too  highly 
of  him  and  that  Luther  also  had  words. 


No  one  has  done  so  much  as  Melanchthon  in  logic  in  a  thousand 
years.  I  knew  the  rules  before,  but  Philip  has  taught  me  the  thing 

The  little  man  is  pious ;  when  he  does  wrong  it  is  not  with  malice 
prepense.  In  his  way  he  has  accomplished  much,  but  he  has  often 
been  unfortunate  in  the  dedications  of  his  books.1  To  judge  by  results 
I  should  say  that  my  way  was  the  better,  to  speak  out  and  hit  like 
a  boy.   Blunt  wedges  rive  hard  knots.2 

1  Melanchthon  had  dedicated  works  to  Albert  of  Mayence  and  Henry  "VTH. 

2  Malo  nodo  malus  cuneus,  a  proverb  several  times  quoted  by  Luther.  My  rend* 
ering  is  borrowed  from  Troilus  and  Cressida. 



A  PREVIOUS  chapter  x  has  traced  the  history  of  the  schism 
of  the  two  great  reformed  Churches  as  far  as  the  unsuccessful 
attempt  to  reconcile  them  at  the  Marburg  colloquy  of  October, 
1529.  To  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  in  the  following  year  Zwingli 
sent  a  confession  of  faith  in  which  he  designated  the  Lutherans 
as  men  who  longed  after  the  flesh  pots  of  the  old  Egypt.  Still 
another  confession,  more  irenic  in  tone,  was  brought  by  the 
German  Zwinglians.  Their  representative,  Martin  Bucer  of 
Strassburg,  since  1518  a  friend  and  admirer  of  the  Wittenberg 
reformer,  visited  Feste  Coburg  in  hopes  of  bringing  about  a 
union.  He  succeeded  in  convincing  Luther  of  the  good  inten- 
tions of  the  South  German  cities,  and,  wishing  to  push  his 
advantage,  sent  to  him,  not  long  after  the  close  of  the  Diet, 
a  very  conciliatory  creed,  for  which  he  received  the  following 
acknowledgment :  — 


Wittenberg,  January  22,  1531. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  I  have  received  the  confession  sent  by 
you,  dear  Bucer ;  I  approve  it  and  thank  God  that  we  are  united  in 
confessing,  as  you  write,  that  the  body  and  blood  of  the  Lord  is  truly 
in  the  supper,  and  is  dispensed  by  the  consecrating  words  as  food  for 
the  soul.  I  am  surprised  that  you  say  that  Zwingli  and  GEcolampa- 
dius  believe  this  too,  but  I  speak  not  to  them  but  to  you.  [Here  fol- 
lows an  exposition  of  the  minute  differences  in  the  belief  of  Luther 
and  of  Bucer.] 

I  cannot,  therefore,  admit  a  full,  solid  peace  with  you  without  vio- 
lating my  conscience,  for  did  I  make  peace  on  these  terms  I  should 
only  sow  the  seeds  of  far  greater  theological  disagreement  and  more 
atrocious  discord  between  us  in  future.  .  .  .  Let  us  rather  bear  a  little 

1  Chapter  xxi 


discord  with  an  imperfect  peace,  than,  by  trying  to  cure  this,  create 
a  more  tragic  schism  and  tumult.  Please  believe  what  I  told  you  at 
Coburg,  that  I  would  like  to  heal  this  breach  between  us  at  the  cost  of 
my  life  three  times  over,  for  I  see  how  needful  is  your  fellowship  to 
us  and  what  damage  our  disunion  has  done  the  gospel.  I  am  certain 
that,  were  we  but  united,  all  the  gates  of  hell  and  all  the  papacy  and 
all  the  Turks  and  all  the  world  and  all  the  flesh  and  whatever  evil 
there  is  could  not  hurt  us.  Please  impute  it  not  to  obstinacy  but  to 
conscience  that  I  decline  the  union  you  propose.  After  our  conference 
at  Coburg  I  had  high  hopes,  but  as  yet  they  have  not  proved  well 
founded.  May  the  Lord  Jesus  illumine  us  and  make  us  more  perfectly 
at  one.  .  .  . 

How  insistent  Luther  was  that  all  with  whom  he  claimed 
Christian  fellowship  should  believe  exactly  as  he  did,  and  how 
sensitive  he  was  lest  it  be  thought  that  he  had  changed  an  iota 
of  his  opinion,  is  set  forth  in  a  letter  to  John  Frosch,  a  minister 
of  Augsburg,  dated  March  28,  1531 :  — 

I  have  heard  of  the  boasting  of  your  Zwinglians  that  peace  is  made 
between  us  and  that  we  have  gone  over  entirely  to  your  opinion.  But, 
my  dear  Frosch,  you  must  know  that  we  have  yielded  nothing.  Mar- 
tin Bucer,  indeed,  seems  to  be  thoroughly  convinced  that  we  believe 
and  teach  the  same  doctrine,  and  of  him  personally  I  therefore  enter- 
tain some  hopes.  Of  the  others  I  know  nothing  certain,  but  if  they 
desire  peace  I  should  wish  to  indulge  them  little  by  little,  tolerating 
their  opinion  for  a  time  while  holding  fast  to  our  own  as  heretofore. 
This  much  charity  demands. 

Luther  not  only  condemned  the  Swiss  theology,  but  he  enter- 
tained a  deep,  and  as  it  proved,  a  well-founded  distrust  of  the 
political  aspirations  of  their  leader.  From  the  alliance  of  Hesse, 
Zurich,  and  Constance  1  he  predicted  disaster. 

His  gloomy  prognostications  were  strikingly  confirmed  by 
the  battle  of  Cappel,  October  11, 1531,  in  which  the  Protestant 
cantons  were  defeated  by  the  Catholic ;  Zwingli  lost  his  life 
and  the  Swiss  allies  of  Hesse  were  rendered  powerless.  As  in 
the  destruction  of  Miinzer  and  the  prophets  six  years  before, 
the  radical  wing  of  the  Protestant  party  was  cut  off  and  the 
leadership  left  to  the  conservative  Lutheran  branch.   The  Re- 

1  See  letter  to  Elector  John,  December  12,  1530,  p.  272. 


former  regarded  both  events  as  providential  judgments  on 
error.  Far  from  being  moved  by  the  heroic  death  of  his  rival, 
he  was,  if  possible,  more  confirmed  than  ever  in  his  unfavor- 
able estimate  of  his  opinions  and  character.  When  he  first 
heard  of  Cappel,  he  exclaimed :  — 

God  knows  the  counsels  of  the  heart,  and  it  is  therefore  a  good 
thing  that  Zwingli,  Carlstadt,  and  Pellican  lie  prostrate,  for  other- 
wise we  could  not  have  withstood  them  and  Strassburg  and  Hesse 
altogether.  What  a  triumph  for  us  it  is  that  they  have  thus  stultified 
themselves ! 

Again,  when  he  learned  of  the  death  of  CEcolampadius, 
which  followed  a  few  weeks  later,  he  said :  — 

Erasmus,  CEcolampadius,  Zwingli,  and  Carlstadt  all  relied  on  their 
own  wisdom  and  were  therefore  confounded.  But  I  know  that  God 
knows  more  than  I  do  and  I  thank  him  for  it.  .  .  .  Who  would 
have  believed  ten  years  ago  that  we  should  have  been  so  successful  ? 

Kegarding  the  heresy  of  Zwingli  as  so  poisonous,  Luther 
naturally  continued  to  combat  it  vigorously.  Not  long  after  his 
rival's  death  he  wrote  a  letter  to  one  of  the  earliest  converts  to 
his  faith,  expressing  his  views  with  a  freedom  deeply  resented 
by  the  Swiss.  The  unkindest  cut  was  the  juxtaposition  of  the 
name  they  revered  with  those  of  the  ranters,  for  Luther  ob- 
stinately persisted  in  confounding  them :  — 


(Wittenberg,  February  or  beginning  of  March,  1532.) 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ  our  Lord  and  Saviour.  Serene,  highborn 
Prince.  I  have  received  your  Grace's  letter  on  the  sacrament  and  the 
sixth  chapter  of  John.    [Here  follows  a  long  exposition  of  this  and 
other  pertinent  texts.] 

Such  counsel  of  the  Holy  Ghost  we  must  not  despise,  nor  turn  our- 
selves to  others'  boasting,  but  avoid  them.  He  who  has  counselled  us 
will  turn  their  boasting  to  shame,  as  he  has  already  begun  to  do.  For 
we  saw  what  he  did  to  Mtinzer  and  his  company,  making  them  a  hor- 
rible example  to  all  ranters.  For  they  boasted  of  the  spirit  and  de- 
spised the  sacrament,  but  they  found  out  thoroughly  what  kind  of  a 
spirit  it  was.  In  like  manner  God  has  chased  Carlstadt  to  and  fro 
ever  since  he  began  his  game  and  has  left  him  no  country  for  his 


body  and  no  rest  for  his  heart,  but  has  made  him  a  true  Cain,  branded 
and  cursed  with  fear  and  trembling.  And  recently  God  has  notably 
punished  the  poor  people  of  Switzerland,  Zwingli  and  his  followers, 
for  they  were  hardened  and  perverted,  condemned  of  themselves,  as 
St.  Paul  says.  They  will  all  experience  the  same. 

Although  neither  Munzerites  nor  Zwinglians  will  admit  that  they 
are  punished  by  God,  but  give  out  that  they  are  martyrs,  neverthe- 
less we,  who  know  that  they  have  gravely  erred  in  the  sacrament  and 
other  articles,  recognize  God's  punishment  and  beware  of  it  ourselves. 
Not  that  we  rejoice  in  their  misfortune,  which  is  and  always  has  been 
a  sorrow  to  our  hearts,  but  we  cannot  let  the  witness  of  God  pass 
unnoticed.  We  hope  from  the  bottom  of  our  hearts  that  they  are 
sayed,  as  it  is  not  impossible  for  God  to  convert  a  man  in  a  moment 
at  his  death  ;  but  to  call  them  martyrs  implies  that  they  died  for  a 
certain  divine  faith,  which  they  did  not.  We  do  not  send  criminals 
whom  we  execute  to  hell,  but  we  do  not  for  that  reason  make  martyrs 
of  them. 

It  astonishes  me  that  the  surviving  Munzerites  and  Zwinglians  do 
not  become  converted  by  the  rod  of  God;  they  not  only  remain 
hardened  in  their  former  error,  but  give  out  that  they  are  mar- 
tyrs. .  .  . 

It  is  true  that  the  victory  of  the  Catholic  Swiss  over  Zwingli  is  not 
at  all  happy,  nor  does  it  win  the  victors  great  glory,  inasmuch  as  they 
let  the  Zwinglian  faith  (as  they  call  it)  stand  undisturbed  by  their 
treaty,  and  do  not  condemn  this  error,  but  let  it  pass,  as  they  say, 
along  with  the  rest  of  their  old,  indubitable  faith ;  this,  perhaps,  will 
only  confirm  the  sacramentarians.  W7e  must  believe  that  this  is  a 
chastisement  of  God,  of  which  they  cannot  boast,  for  by  it  he  has 
closed  their  mouths  against  their  enemies  and  all  godless  papists,  and 
has  given  the  latter  cause  to  boast,  which  I  fear  will  finally  bring  down 
a  judgment  of  God  on  both  parties.  .  .  . 

Wherefore  I  warn  your  Grace,  and  beg  that  you  will  avoid  such  peo- 
ple and  not  suffer  them  in  your  land.  Your  Grace  must  think  that  if  you 
tolerate  such  ranters  in  your  dominions  when  you  can  prevent  it,  you 
will  terribly  burden  your  conscience,  so  that  perhaps  you  can  never 
quiet  it  again ;  you  would  be  troubled  not  only  for  the  sake  of  your 
soul,  which  would  be  damned  thereby,  but  for  the  sake  of  the  whole 
Christian  Church,  for  if  you  allow  any  to  teach  against  the  long  and 
unanimously  held  doctrine  of  the  Church  when  you  can  prevent  it,  it 
.  may  well  be  called  an  unbearable  burden  to  conscience.  I  should 
rather  have  not  only  all  ranters,  but  all  powerful,  wise  emperors, 


kings,  and  princes  testify  against  me  than  let  one  jot  of  the  holy- 
Christian  Church  hear  or  see  anything  against  me.  For  we  must  not 
trifle  with  the  articles  of  faith  so  long  and  unanimously  held  by 
Christendom,  as  we  can  with  papal  or  imperial  law  or  the  human 
traditions  of  the  fathers  and  the  councils. 

This  is  my  brief,  humble,  and  Christian  answer  to  your  Grace.  May 
Christ  our  Saviour  richly  enlighten  and  strengthen  you  to  believe  and 
act  according  to  his  holy  Word.  Amen. 

Your  Grace's  devoted 

Martin  Luther. 

Some  months  after  writing  the  above  missive  Luther  ex- 
pressed himself  as  to  the  probability  of  his  enemies,  salvation 
as  follows :  — 

It  is  much  better  and  easier  to  pronounce  Zwingli  and  CEcolampa- 
dius  damned  than  saved,  even  if  they  did  die  for  their  faith.  It  is 
profitable  to  do  this  to  deter  others,  both  those  now  living  and  posterity, 
from  their  errors,  for  to  call  them  saints  and  martyrs  hurts  many  and 
confirms  the  sectaries  in  their  opinions. 

Zwingli  took  the  sword  and  received  his  reward,  for  Christ  says : 
Whoso  draweth  the  sword  shall  perish  by  the  sword.  If  God  has 
saved  his  soul  he  has  done  it  extra  regulam. 

The  blow  to  Protestantism  in  Switzerland  made  it  all  the 
more  advisable  that  German  Lutherans  and  Zwinglians  should 
unite,  and  the  danger  of  saeramentarian  leadership  being  averted 
removed  the  obstacle  to  doing  so  on  the  part  of  Wittenberg. 
Philip  of  Hesse  was  again  the  mediator.  Judging  that  better 
results  would  follow  from  a  conference  at  which  Luther  was 
not  present,  he  invited  Melanchthon  to  meet  Bucer  at  Cassel  in 
December  1534,  to  discuss  terms  of  agreement.  Fearing  that  his 
friend  would  yield  too  much,  Luther  sent  with  him  a  written 
statement  of  his  opinion  in  the  strongest  form,  namely,  that  the 
body  of  the  Lord  was  bitten  by  the  teeth  of  the  communicant. 
The  meeting  was,  however,  successful ;  Bucer  admitted  the  ab- 
sent reformer's  contentions  in  such  away  as  to  convince  the  lattei 
that  the  Church  of  Upper  Germany,  at  least,  was  on  the  right 
road.  Thus  he  wrote  to  Philip  of  Hesse,  January  30,  1535  :  — 

I  have  now  arrived  at  the  point,  thank  God,  where  I  can  confidently 
hope  that  the  ministers  of  Upper  Germany  heartily  and  earnestly  be- 


lieve  what  they  say.  But  inasmuch  as  neither  side  has  completely  as- 
certained the  opinion  of  the  other,  it  seems  to  me  that  we  have  done 
enough  for  the  present  until  God  helps  us  to  a  real,  thorough  union. 
A  long  standing  and  deep  difference  cannot  come  to  an  end  suddenly. 

Nevertheless  he  wrote  to  Gerbel  !  November  27,  1535  :  — 

What  more  joyful  could  happen  to  me,  now  that  I  have  discharged 
the  duties  of  life,  used  up  with  labor  and  sorrow  and  overtaken  with 
old  age,  than  that  before  my  death  I  should  see  an  unexpected  peace  ? 
...  I  say  this  that  you  may  not  doubt  that  I  am  heartily  desirous  of 
an  agreement  whatever  may  seem  to  interfere  with  one.  If  you  will 
mediate  I  am  willing  to  do  and  suffer  all.  I  wish  to  be  found  a  faith- 
ful servant  of  Christ  in  the  Church  even  if  I  am  not  a  very  wise  one. 

With  such  a  spirit  of  eagerness  on  one  side  and  of  willing- 
ness on  the  other,  it  was  natural  that  a  still  closer  approach  to 
unity  should  be  made.  Free  correspondence  between  the  leaders 
of  both  parties  impressed  on  them  the  belief  that  all  that  was 
needed  for  perfect  mutual  understanding  was  a  personal  inter- 
view. The  Upper  Germans  appealed  to  Luther  to  fix  the  time 
and  place  for  such  an  assembly  and  he  in  turn  consulted  the 
Elector  in  a  letter  of  January  25,  1536  :  — 

The  ministers  of  Strassburg  and  Augsburg  are  anxious  for  a  meet- 
ing, for  having  thoroughly  canvassed  the  subject,  we  are  convinced 
that  nothing  remains  but  to  draw  up  an  agreement.  There  is  no  need, 
as  they  themselves  acknowledge,  of  a  great  concourse,  among  whom 
some  might  be  restless  and  recalcitrant  and  thus  spoil  our  peaceful  in- 
tentions. I  therefore  humbly  beg  your  Grace  to  state  what  city  would 
be  best. 

The  Elector  at  first  assigned  Eisenach  as  the  place  of  meeting, 
but  this  was  later  changed,  on  account  of  Luther's  health,  to 
"Wittenberg.  A  small  number  of  the  leading  clergy  of  Upper 
Germany  arrived  on  May  21,  and  the  next  day  the  conference 
began  at  the  Black  Cloister.  After  a  week's  deliberation  Luther 
was  finally  convinced  that  the  men  present  believed  and  taught 
the  orthodox  doctrine  of  the  sacrament,  namely,  that  the  body 
and  blood  are  really  present  in  the  elements  of  the  eucharist. 
When  he  announced  that  he  regarded  them  all  as  brothers 
1  Enders,  xi,  12C.  On  dating,  see  note,  ibid.  128. 


tears  sprang  to  the  eyes  of  many.  The  conference  was  closed 
Saturday,  May  27.  The  day  following,  one  of  the  visiting  di- 
vines, Alber,  preached  in  the  morning,  Bucer  at  noon,  and  Lu- 
ther in  the  afternoon.  The  same  evening  Bucer  and  others  were 
guests  at  the  Black  Cloister ;  of  their  conversation  on  that  oc- 
casion the  following  interesting  fragment  has  been  recorded : * — 

Luther  —  I  liked  your  sermon  right  well,  friend  Bucer,  and  yet  I 
think  mine  was  better. 

Bucer  —  I  gladly  admit  your  superiority,  doctor. 

Luther  —  I  don't  mean  to  boast ;  I  know  my  weakness  and  that  I 
am  not  so  acute  and  learned  as  you  in  my  sermons.  But  when  I  enter 
the  pulpit,  I  consider  my  audience,  mostly  poor  laymen  and  Wends,2 
and  preach  to  them.  Like  a  mother  I  try  to  give  my  children  milk, 
and  not  some  fine  syrup  from  the  apothecary.  You  preach  over  their 
heads,  floating  around  in  the  clouds  and  in  the  "  shpirit."  8 

In  the  mean  time  Melanchthon  had  drawn  up  a  formula  em- 
bodying the  results  of  the  conference,  the  Wittenberg  Concord, 
as  it  was  called,  which  was  signed  by  all  present,  save  one,  on 
Monday,  May  29.  The  same  day  the  guests  departed.  With 
them  Luther  sent  several  letters  on  the  agreement,  one  of  which 
may  be  transcribed :  — 


Wittenberg,  May  29, 1536. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Honorable,  wise,  and  dear  friends!  I 
have  heard  both  of  your  preachers,  together  with  others,  and  have 
done  all  in  my  power  for  them,  as  they  themselves  will  tell  you.  At 
last,  thank  God,  we  are  at  one  on  all  things,  so  far  as  human  power 
can  tell ;  wherefore  I  kindly  and  humbly  beg  you,  as  much  as  you  can, 
to  make  our  union  strong  and  permanent.  I  have  earnestly  prayed  and 
admonished  your  ministers  to  do  the  same,  that  we  may  not  only  teach 
the  same  doctrine  with  our  mouths  but  also  trust  one  another  from  the 
bottom  of  our  hearts,  eradicating  all  offence  as  true  love  is  bound  to  do. 
If  our  agreement  please  you  and  your  ministers,  kindly  inform  us,  as 

1  Die  handschriftliche  Geschichte  Batzebergers,  edited  by  Neudecker,  1850, 
pp.  87  f . 

2  The  Wends  were  the  remnants  of  the  Slavonic  population  which  had  inhab- 
ited Germany  before  the  arrival  of  the  Teutons. 

8  Luther  ridicules  his  guest's  pronunciation  of  "Geist"  (spirit)  as  "  Gaischt." 


we  shall  tell  you  and  others  how  we  are  pleased  with  the  union.  Then 
we  will  have  it  publicly  printed,  to  the  praise  of  God  and  the  hurt  of 
the  devil  and  his  members.  Amen.  The  Father  of  all  comfort  and 
peace  strengthen  and  guide  your  hearts  with  us  in  the  right  knowledge 
of  his  dear  Son  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ,  in  whom  all  the  riches  of  wis- 
dom and  knowledge  are  hidden.  Amen. 

Your  devoted 

M.  L. 

Although  the  Wittenberg  Agreement  had  reunited  the 
Lutherans  with  the  German  followers  of  Zwingli  the  breach 
with  the  Swiss  still  remained.  Bucer,  cheered  by  the  success  of 
his  last  venture,  hoped  to  heal  this  schism  also,  and,  finding 
the  Swiss  divines  ready  to  meet  him  halfway,  approached 
Luther.  His  letter  reached  the  Reformer  while  he  was  lying  at 
Schmalkalden  very  ill,  and  was  therefore  not  answered  until 
December  6,  1537.  This  noncommittal  reply  left  matters  as 
they  had  been. 

In  1538  the  Swiss  again  addressed  themselves  to  Wittenberg. 
On  April  15  one  of  their  ministers,  Simon  Sulzer,  visited  Saxony 
and  was  received  with  friendliness  at  the  Black  Cloister.  A 
little  later  Zwingli's  successor  at  Zurich,  Henry  Bullinger, 
wrote  Luther  with  the  same  end  in  view.  The  Reformer  replied 
on  May  14 :  — 

Of  Zwingli  I  will  say  freely  that  when  I  saw  and  heard  him  at  Mar- 
burg I  judged  him  an  excellent  man,  as  I  did  CEcolampadius.  Their 
fate  deeply  shocked  me,  being,  as  I  am  forced  to  believe,  a  retribution 
on  their  obstinately  held  errors. 

After  this  no  further  efforts  at  unification  were  made. 



By  1535  the  League  of  Schmalkalden  had  become  one  of  the 
great  powers  of  Europe.  The  Emperor  was  forced  to  treat  with 
this  combination  of  his  subjects  as  with  a  foreign  state,  and 
the  puissant  monarchs  of  France  and  England  sought  alliance 
with  it  to  bridle  the  overbearing  dominion  of  the  Hapsburgs. 
Francis,  in  courting  the  fellowship  of  the  German  Protestants, 
was  moved  by  purely  political  motives,  for  there  was  never  any 
serious  question  of  his  conversion.  So  earnest  was  he,  however, 
in  soliciting  the  heretics'  support,  that  he  not  only  sent  a 
special  embassy  to  Ernestine  Saxony,  but  invited  Melanchthon 
to  visit  his  capital.  Little  as  Luther  trusted  him  he  thought  the 
invitation  should  be  accepted  for  reasons  explained  in  a  letter. 


(Tobgau  ?)  August  17, 1535. 
Grace  and  peace  and  my  poor  paternoster.  Most  serene,  highborn 
Prince,  most  gracious  Lord !  I  beg  your  Grace  humbly  and  earnestly 
in  God's  name  to  let  Philip  Melanchthon  go  to  France.  I  am  moved 
to  make  this  petition  by  the  piteous  letter  of  pious,  honorable  men  [in 
France]  who  have  barely  escaped  being  burned.  Melanchthon's  re- 
ception by  the  king  would  bring  such  slaughter  to  an  end.  But  if  we 
fail  these  people  the  bloodhounds  will  have  a  pretext  to  do  their  worst 
with  stake  and  axe,  so  that  I  think  Melanchthon  can  hardly  with  a 
good  conscience  leave  the  men  in  such  need  and  rob  them  of  their 
desired  comfort.  Besides  which  the  king  might  take  offence  against 
us  all  if  we  refused,  for  he  himself  graciously*  wrote  the  invitation 
and  sent  an  embassy.  Your  Grace  can  leave  the  issue  to  God's  mercy 
while  Philip  is  absent  three  months.  Who  knows  what  God,  whose 
thoughts  are  higher  than  our  thoughts,  will  do  ?  .  .  . 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 


This  letter  was  without  effect,  for  John  Frederic  feared  the 
acceptance  of  the  invitation  would  provoke  the  Emperor,  and 
moreover  he  thought  that  Melanchthon,  whose  yielding  nature 
was  only  too  well  known,  might  be  brought  to  make  concessions 
prejudicial  to  sound  doctrine. 

England,  too,  was  now  seeking  the  aid  of  the  Schmalkaldic 
princes.  As  soon  as  Henry  heard  of  the  act  of  Francis,  he 
dispatched  Barnes  in  post  haste  with  a  similar  invitation  to 
Melanchthon  to  visit  London.  Luther  also  advised  that  this 
be  accepted,  but  it  was  again  denied.1 

Two  Catholic  princes  nearer  home  divided  Luther's  atten- 
tion with  the  rulers  of  France  and  England.  Ever  since 
1517  he  had  been  in  communication  with  Albert  of  Mayence. 
At  the  Diet  of  Worms,  as  Capito  wrote  to  the  Reformer,  this 
ecclesiastic  had  advised  moderation  in  dealing  with  the  heretic. 
His  letter  of  December  21,  1521,  had  been  the  beginning  'of 
a  rapprochement,  for  Albert  toyed  with  the  idea  of  changing 
his  religion  and  turning  his  archbishopric  into  a  temporal 

At  Augsburg  the  Hohenzoller  had  again  used  his  influence  for 
peace.  Shortly  after  this  he  drew  down  Luther's  displeasure 
by  certain  acts  hostile  to  the  Evangelic  faith,  and  in  1535  a 
furious  quarrel  was  caused  by  a  tyrannical  act  of  the  Macchia- 
vellian  prince  in  the  execution  of  one  John  Schenitz. 

This  artisan  had  risen  from  a  humble  position  to  be  a  minion 
of  the  powerful  Elector  of  Mayence,  at  whose  request  he 
was  even  ennobled  by  the  Emperor  in  1532.  Two  years  later 
his  power  suddenly  collapsed.  He  was  accused,  perhaps  with 
justice,  of  fraud ;  envious  courtiers  poisoned  the  mind  of  their 
lord ;  an  intrigue  of  Schenitz  with  one  of  Albert's  mistresses 
aroused  the  prelate's  jealousy,  and  finally  a  scapegoat  was 
needed  to  satisfy  the  loud  complaints  of  Albert's  subjects 
against  the  extravagance  of  his  administration.,  So  in  Septem- 
ber, 1534,  he  was  arrested,  and  notwithstanding  bribes  offered 
by  his  brother  Antony  and  an  appeal  to  the  Emperor,  he 
was  hanged  at  Giebichenstein  in  June,  1535.  Antony,  with 
Lewis  Rabe,  another  courtier,  fled  to  Wittenberg,  where  they 
1  Cf.  chapter  xvn  on  Lather  and  Henry  VIII,  p.  197. 


gave  the  Kef ormer  their  own  account  of  the  trial.  When  Albert 
complained  that  he  misrepresented  the  facts  he  received  the 
following  stern  letter  from  Luther :  — 


Wittknbebg,  July  31,  1535. 

I  wish  you  repentance  and  forgiveness  of  sins,  most  noble  Prince, 
gracious  Lord  !  I  am  moved  to  indite  this  letter  to  your  Holiness,  not 
in  the  hope  that  it  will  do  you  any  good,  but  only  to  satisfy  my  con- 
science before  God  and  the  world  and  not  to  connive  at  your  crimes 
by  keeping  silence.  Lewis  Rabe  has  read  me  a  letter  in  which  your 
Holiness  threatens  to  call  him  to  account  for  mentioning  John  Schenitz 
whom  you  condemned.  As  he  is  my  guest  and  your  Holiness  doubt- 
less knows  that  you  are  doing  him  wrong  and  do  not  speak  the  truth, 
I  am  forced  to  think  that  you  are  privily  seeking  a  quarrel  with  me, 
or  are  vexed  at  the  honest  words  of  honest  men.  I  can  testify  con- 
scientiously that  Rabe  sits  like  a  maiden  at  the  table  and  often  speaks 
more  good  of  his  infernal  cardinal  than  I  can  well  believe.  He  does 
not  gad  about  the  town  but  sits  still  in  his  room.  The  whole  city  was 
full  of  Schenitz'  fate  at  least  two  days  before  either  Rabe  or  I  heard 
of  it,  and  we  could  hardly  believe  this  noble  deed  of  your  Holiness, 
that  Schenitz,  so  highly  favored  a  minion,  should  suddenly  be  hanged 
by  his  dearest  lord.  Neither  Rabe  nor  I  invented  the  story;  the 
cardinal's  name  was  spit  upon  and  damned  without  our  motion. 

If  it  is  your  intention  to  pick  a  quarrel  with  me  it  is  my  devout 
prayer  that  your  Holiness  should  not  strike  at  my  guests  and  friends. 
...  I  hope  your  Holiness  will  not  hang  me  as  quickly  as  you  did 
Schenitz.  I  propose  to  have  my  thoughts  and  opinions  and  also  my 
conversations  with  my  friends  free  and  unforbidden  by  your  Holiness, 
just  as  I  must  allow  you  a  similar  privilege.  If  I  am  a  little  incred- 
ulous about  what  might  be  said  against  Schenitz  and  for  your  Holiness 
—  though  I  have  not  heard  anything  like  that  hitherto  —  it  is  a  sin 
which  may  be  forgiven  me  without  one  of  your  Holiness's  indulgences. 
If  your  Holiness  would  hang  all  who  speak  evil  and  shame  of  you  in 
this  and  in  other  matters,  you  would  not  find  rope  enough  in  all  Ger- 
many. No  matter  how  busily  the  infernal  cardinal  plied  the  hangman's 
trade,  some  would  escape.  ...  If  your  Holiness  is  anxious  to  know 
what  people  are  saying  about  you  throughout  Germany,  I  can  very 
well  publish  it,  and  relate  everything  which  stands  to  the  credit  of 
such  a  horrible  holy  man,  clear  from  the  beginning  about  indulgences 


fifteen  years  ago.  Your  Holiness  is  not  well  advised  to  stir  up  so  foul 
a  matter  nor  to  raise  that  bitter  enemy  Rumor  against  you.  .  .  . 

In  writing  this  letter  to  your  Holiness  for  the  last  time,  I  must  take 
comfort  that  you  cannot  hang  all  your  enemies,  though  it  were  indeed  an 
easy  matter  to  hang  all  who  wish  you  well.  Leave  off  your  attacks  on 
God  and  his  Church  and  let  a  few  live  until  the  infernal  torturer  gets 
hold  of  you.  Amen. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther,  Preacher  at  Wittenberg. 

Albert  endeavored  to  appease  Luther  by  turning  to  their  com- 
mon friends  John  Riihel  and  Prince  George  of  Anhalt  as 
mediators,  but  he  only  succeeded  in  making  him  angrier  than 
before.  About  the  end  of  January,  1536,  the  Reformer  wrote 
him  another  letter  in  the  tone  of  that  last  given,  threatening  a 
book  against  him  charging  him  with  a  number  of  crimes  and 
vices  as  well  as  with  the  murder  of  Schenitz.  The  archbishop 
applied  to  his  powerful  relative  the  Elector  of  Brandenburg, 
who,  with  himself,  made  diplomatic  representations  at  the  court 
of  Saxony  too  strong  to  be  ignored.  The  chancellor  of  John 
Frederic,  Gregory  Briick,  writing  to  Luther  on  the  subject, 
received  an  answer,  dated  December  10,  1536,  containing  the 
following  paragraph :  — 

You  have  informed  me  that  my  gracious  lord,  moved  thereto  by 
letters  from  the  Elector  of  Brandenburg  and  his  family,  has  instructed 
you  to  ask  me  about  my  proposed  pamphlet  against  the  cardinal  of 
Mayence.  I  give  you  to  know  that  I  intend  to  write  it,  but  wish  the 
Elector  of  Brandenburg  and  his  relatives  nothing  but  good.  I  told 
them  at  Torgau  and  elsewhere  that  I  should  prefer  to  see  them  take 
their  noble  cousin  the  cardinal  in  hand  themselves  and  make  him 
cease  from  evil,  for  truly  I  am  of  the  opinion  that  he  has  mocked  our 
dear  Lord  Jesus  Christ  and  plagued  poor  folk  enough.  If  they  did  so 
it  would  do  more  good  than  for  them  to  complain  against  my  writings. 
My  pamphlet  will  contain  little  that  is  new  ;  I  simply  mean  to  uncork 
that  prelate's  nose,  for  it  is  stopped  up  so  tight  that  he  cannot  smell 
how  he  stinks  unless  he  is  forced  to. 

Business  and  ill  health  delayed  the  publication  until  Luther 
had  cooled  off  sufficiently  to  allow  himself  to  be  persuaded  not 
to  write  the  obnoxious  pamphlet  at  all.  He  often  thought  over 
the  cardinal's  sins,  however ;  on  July  1,  1538,  for  example,  he 


sighed  and  said :  "  Dear  Lord  Jesus  Christ,  give  me  life  and 
strength  and  I  will  shave  that  parson's  head,  for  he  is  a  wicked 
and  crafty  mocker  of  all  men." 

Another  magnate  with  whom  Luther's  relations  were  chronic- 
ally bad  was  Duke  George  of  Albertine  Saxony.  Ever  since 
the  Leipsic  debate  the  Reformer  had  hated  him  as  the  most  con- 
sistent enemy  of  the  gospel.  The  quarrel  which  had  flamed  up 
in  1529  as  a  sequel  to  the  Pack  affair 1  broke  out  again  in  1531, 
when  the  Duke  answered  Luther's  Warning  to  his  dear  Germans, 
and  when  one  of  his  clergy  replied  to  the  Gloss  on  the  Putative 
Imperial  Edict.2  The  Reformer  received  his  opponent's  work 
before  it  had  been  published  and  replied  in  a  characteristically 
severe  pamphlet  Against  the  Assassin  of  Dresden.  This  book- 
let was  ready  for  the  Leipsic  fair  of  the  spring  of  1531,  for 
notwithstanding  the  supervision  of  the  Duke  many  of  Luther's 
works  found  their  way  to  his  capital.  It  may  have  been  as  a 
reply  to  this  that  in  1532  he  passed  a  law  that  his  subjects 
should  take  the  sacrament  once  a  year  at  least  according  to  the 
rites  of  the  Catholic  Church,  making  exile  the  punishment  of 
those  who  refused  —  exactly  the  measure  of  persecution  adopted 
against  the  papists  in  Ernestine  Saxony.  Luther  was  furious 
when  he  heard  of  this  law  against  his  co-religionists :  — 

They  say  a  mad  dog  lives  only  nine  days,  but  Duke  George  has 
been  mad  nine  years.  He  will  be  a  lunatic  soon.  He  has  just  exiled 
some  of  his  subjects  on  account  of  the  sacrament. 

To  the  Protestants  of  Albertine  Saxony,  who  wrote  Luther 
asking  what  was  their  duty  at  this  conjuncture,  he  answered :  — 


Wittenberg,  April  11,  1533. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ,  who  suffers  and  is  put  to  death  among 
you,  but  who  will  certainly  rise  and  reign. 

I  have  heard,  dear  friends,  that  some  of  you  wish  to  know  whether 
they  may  take  the  sacrament  under  one  kind  with  good  conscience, 
saying  that  if  they  only  do  that  the  government  will  be  satisfied.  Al- 
though I  know  none  of  you  nor  how  your  hearts  and  minds  are  fixed,, 
yet  this  is  my  counsel :  Whoso  is  convinced  that  God's  Word  commands 

1  Cf .  Chapter  xix.  2  Chapter  xxiv. 


the  sacrament  to  be  dispensed  in  both  kinds  should  not  do  anything 
contrary  to  his  conscience,  for  that  would  be  tantamount  to  acting 
against  God  himself.  And  as  Duke  George  has  undertaken  to  search 
out  the  secrets  of  conscience,  he  will  deserve  to  be  deceived,  as  an 
apostle  of  the  devil,  which  could  easily  be  done,  as  he  has  no  right  to 
make  such  an  inquiry,  but  sins  against  God  and  the  Holy  Ghost.  And 
yet,  as  we  must  not  do  wrong  because  others  do  —  though  they  be 
murderers  and  brigands  —  but  must  only  decide  what  is  right  for  us 
to  do,  in  the  circumstances  it  would  be  better  to  say  to  the  murderer 
and  brigand  openly :  "I  will  not  do  what  you  command ;  take  my 
body  and  estate,  and  thereby  injure  him  by  whom  you  will  be  called 
to  strict  account,  for  Peter  says,  '  Jesus  Christ  is  ready  to  judge  the 
quick  and  the  dead.'  Wherefore,  dear  brigand,  go  on  as  you  like  ;  what 
you  will  I  will  not,  but  what  I  will,  God  wills  also,  as  you  shall  soon 
find  out."  We  must  smite  the  devil  in  the  face  with  the  cross  and  not 
whistle  to  him  nor  flatter  him,  so  that  he  will  know  with  whom  he  has 
to  do.  May  Christ  our  Lord  strengthen  you  and  be  with  you.  Amen. 
Dr.  Martin  Luther,  with  his  own  hand. 

It  is  hardly  surprising  that  the  prince  designated  as  the 
"  devil's  apostle  "  should  complain  that  Luther  was  stirring  up 
revolt  among  his  subjects.  Peace  was  made  by  a  meeting  of 
diplomats  of  each  branch  of  the  house  of  Wettin,  only  to  be 
broken  the  next  year  when  Duke  George's  son  complained 
that  Luther  was  praying  against  his  father.  To  the  Elector's 
inquiries  Luther  guardedly  answered  that  he  did  not  know 
whether  he  had  done  so  or  not,  but  at  his  sovereign's  request 
he  consented  to  abstain  from  public  prayers  of  such  a  kind  in 
future.  A  truce  was  thus  observed  during  the  five  remaining 
years  of  George's  life.  The  quarrel  is  not  wholly  to  Luther's 
credit.  The  Duke  was  in  many  ways  an  estimable  character, 
sincerely  convinced  of  his  faith,  and  yet  never,  like  so  many 
other  princes,  staining  his  hands  in  the  blood  of  the  Protestants. 

The  Reformer's  opinion  of  his  demerits  was  only  confirmed 
by  his  peculiarly  tragic  end.  One  by  one  all  of  his  sons  died, 
last  of  all  Frederic,  an  idiot  who  succumbed  to  powerful  reme- 
dies administered  to  make  him  capable  of  having  children.  The 
forlorn  old  duke  made  a  will  leaving  his  domains  to  his  brother 
Henry,  known  to  be  a  Lutheran,  only  on  condition  that  he 


embraced  the  Catholic  faith ;  otherwise  he  devised  his  lands  to 
King  Ferdinand.  On  his  death,  April,  1539,  Henry  the  Pious 
succeeded,  and,  disregarding  the  will,  at  once  introduced  the 
Keformation  with  the  general  consent  of  his  subjects,  most  of 
whom  had  already  become  secretly  converted.  Luther  and 
Melanchthon  accepted  his  invitation  to  visit  Leipsic  during 
the  festival  attending  the  public  adoption  of  the  Protestant 
faith.  The  journey  was  a  triumph  contrasting  strongly  with 
the  visit  of  twenty  years  before,  when,  frowned  upon  by  the 
government  and  hooted  by  the  populace,  the  Wittenbergers 
had  come  to  debate  with  Eck. 

Luther  was  hardly  convinced  of  the  sincerity  of  the  con- 
version. When  his  friend  Link  was  called  to  fill  a  position 
in  the  capital  of  Albertine  Saxony,  the  Reformer  wrote  him, 
October  26,  1539:  — 

I  would  by  no  means  advise  you  to  change  your  present  position 
for  one  at  Leipsic.  There  they  were  debating  who  or  what  will  support 
the  ministers  of  the  Word.  If  the  people  are  well  disposed,  neverthe- 
less the  nobles  regard  Wittenberg  with  their  old  hatred.  Duke  George 
is  not  dead  there  as  yet,  and  it  is  uncertain  whether  he  will  die  or 
rather  come  back  again  soon.  Indeed  I  hate  that  sink  of  usury  and 
other  wrongs,  that  Sodom  which  must  be  saved  for  the  sake  of  Lot 
only.  The  remnant  of  the  city  is  provided  for  by  a  happy  introduction 
of  the  Evangelic  Church. 



A  NEW  phase  in  the  history  of  the  Reformation  was  ushered  in 
by  the  death,  in  October,  1534,  of  Clement  VII,  and  the  election 
of  Paul  III,  a  man  of  very  different  type,  whose  main  interest 
was  not  to  enjoy  the  temporal  benefits  of  the  papacy,  but  to  for- 
ward the  cause  of  the  Church  and  especially  to  stamp  out  the 
growing  heresy.  He  hoped  to  accomplish  this  by  means  of  an 
oecumenic  council,  for  to  such  a  body  the  Protestants  themselves 
had  often  appealed  for  a  final  settlement  of  orthodox  faith.  To 
arrange  for  the  summoning  of  such  an  assembly  he  sent  to  Ger- 
many as  nuncio  Vergerio,  Bishop  of  Capo  d'Istria.  On  the  way 
from  Berlin  to  Dresden  this  prelate  took  the  longer  road  by 
Wittenberg,  excusing  himself  in  a  letter  to  a  friend  for  visiting 
this  sink  of  heresy,  by  saying  that  he  was  forced  to  do  it  to  avoid 
the  plague  endemic  in  the  smaller  villages.  At  Wittenberg, 
where  he  arrived  November  6,  1535,  he  was  received  with  cere- 
mony by  the  bailiff,  John  von  Metsch,  and  lodged  in  the  elect- 
oral castle.  On  the  very  night  that  he  came  he  invited  Luther, 
Bugenhagen,  and  their  English  friend  Barnes,  now  here  on  of- 
ficial business,  to  "  dinner  after  the  bath,"  according  to  the  then 
polite  usage.  This  was  declined,  but  the  following  day  the  Ger- 
mans —  not  Barnes  —  accepted  a  second  invitation  to  the  ten 
o'clock  lunch  which  was  then  the  principal  repast.  Luther's  pre- 
parations for  this  meeting,  which,  by  the  way,  was  on  Sunday, 
are  recorded  by  one  of  the  reporters  of  the  table-talk :  — 

Luther  sent  for  the  barber  early  to  shave  him.  When  he  asked  why 
he  was  thus  summoned,  Luther  replied  :  "lam  told  that  an  agent  of 
the  Holy  Father  the  Pope  has  come  and  that  I  am  to  speak  with  him. 
If,  therefore,  I  have  a  young  appearance  the  legate  will  think  :  *  The 
devil !  If  Luther  who  is  not  yet  old  has  been  able  to  give  so  much 
trouble,  what  will  he  do  when  he  gets  on  in  life  ? '  " 1 

1  The  doctor's  desire  to  appear  young  was  realized ;  the  nuncio  wrote  that 


When  shaved,  the  doctor  put  on  his  best  clothes  and  a  gold  chain 
around  his  neck.  "  Professor,"  said  the  barber,  "  you  will  offend 
them. "  Luther  replied  :  "  I  do  it  for  that  very  purpose  ;  they  have 
offended  us  enough  and  one  must  deal  thus  with  foxes  and  serpents." 
The  barber :  "  Go  in  peace ;  the  Lord  grant  that  you  may  convert 
them."  Luther :  "  I  shall  not  do  that,  but  it  is  possible  that  they  may 
be  reproved  by  me  before  they  are  dismissed." 

Luther  and  Bugenhagen  then  drove  to  the  castle,  where  they 
were  met  by  the  bailiff,  John  von  Metsch.  Here,  in  a  dining- 
room,  was  enacted  the  following  little  drama  : 1  — 

Enter  John  von  Metsch  with  Luther  and  Bugenhagen. 

Metsch  —  My  Lord,  let  me  present  Dr.  Luther  and  our  pastor 
Bugenhagen  —  the  best  company  we  have  for  you  in  Wittenberg. 
(Turning  to  Luther)  This  is  my  lord  the  legate  of  his  Holiness  Paul 

Luther  (taking  off  his  cap)  2  —  How  do  you  do  ?  So  you  come  from 
Paul  III,  do  you  ?  I  remember  hearing  when  I  was  in  Rome  many 
years  ago  (smiling  sarcastically) ,  celebrating  masses  by  the  bushel,  that 
he  who  is  now  Pope  was  better  than  the  average  run  of  priests. 

Vergerio  —  Let  us  sit  down  to  table,  gentlemen.  (They  do  so ; 
Metsch,  who  waits  on  the  table  himself,  pours  wine.) 

Luther  (taking  a  sip  of  wine)  —  I  daresay  that  before  you  came 
to  Germany  you  heard  that  I  was  drunk  most  of  the  time  ? 

Vergerio  —  I  did  hear  some  things,  professor.  —  I  regret  that  the 
Englishman  was  unable  to  accept  my  invitation  to  dinner.  Who  is  he, 
anyway  ? 

Luther  —  Oh,  he  is  King  Henry's  private  secretary  sent  as  special 
ambassador  to  us.  He  mentioned  that  his  monarch  had  just  put  to 
death  a  couple  of  bishops ;  8  I  told  him  I  wished  it  had  been  a  hun- 

Vergerio  —  How  can  you  praise  sufficiently  what  he  has  done  to 
these  two  holy  men  ? 

although  fifty  he  looked  only  forty.  The  Italian  gentleman,  however,  ridiculed  the 
ex-monk's  dress  and  poor  way  of  living. 

1  For  the  sources  of  this  see  the  bibliography  at  the  end  of  the  book.  I  have 
followed  them  as  accurately  as  possible,  simply  turning  some  indirect  into  direct 
discourse  and  supplying  a  few  absolutely  necessary  junctura. 

2  This  courtesy  was  so  much  less  than  the  legate  expected  that  he  found  it  an 

8  Luther  means  Fisher,  Bishop  of  Rochester,  and  Sir  Thomas  More,  who  was  not 
a  bishop. 


Luther  —  It  would  be  hard  to  do  so.  ( Vergerio  gnaws  his  lips  and 
makes  a  furious  gesture.)  England  is  certainly  coming  over  to  our 
side  and  would  support  the  German  Protestants  against  the  Catholics. 

Vergerio  —  Don't  be  deceived  by  his  arguments  and  his  bribes.  We 
should  do  far  better  to  make  common  cause  against  this  monster  than 
to  eat  each  other  up.  (Pause.)  Speaking  of  bishops  how  do  you  get 
along  here  without  any  to  ordain  your  priests  ? 

Luther  (pointing  to  Bugenhagen)  —  There  sits  the  bishop  appointed 
for  that  purpose. 

Bugenhagen  (solemnly  nodding)  —  Aye,  we  ordain  them  according 
to  the  method  taught  by  the  Apostle  Paul. 

Vergerio  (sarcastically)  —  Indeed  ! 

Luther  (warmly)  —  You  see,  my  lord,  we  are  compelled  to ;  and 
men  publicly  approved  are  thus  ordained. 

Vergerio  —  What  do  you  mean  by  "  compelled  "  ? 

Luther  (hotly)  —  Your  Roman  bishops  are  too  holy  for  us  ;  they 
despise  us  and  won't  do  it,  so  we  have  to  provide  for  our  own  souls, 
and  we  appoint  one  of  ourselves  to  take  the  place  of  the  bishop. 

Vergerio  —  I  suppose  these  priests  think  it  better  to  marry  than  to 
burn  ? 

Luther  —  Aye,  they  are  husbands  of  one  wife.  I  have  an  honorable 
nun  myself  ;  we  have  three  boys  and  two  girls.  The  eldest  boy  is  nine.1 
I  expect  he  will  be  a  great  Evangelic  theologian  some  day  to  take  my 

Vergerio  —  Do  you  teach  him  to  fast  and  pray  ? 

Luther  (fiercely)  —  Not  when  the  Pope  orders  him  to. 

Vergerio  —  Do  you  mean  to  say  that  you  refuse  to  fast  just  because 
our  Holy  Father  the  Pope  commands  it  ? 

Luther  —  Precisely  ;  if  it  were  the  Emperor,  now,  we  would ;  we 
respect  him. 

Vergerio  —  What  you  say  is  really  incomprehensible.  Don't  you 
know  that  the  Emperor  himself  is  a  mere  creature  of  the  Pope  ?  The 
Supreme  Pontiff  crowns  him  and  our  Holy  Mother  Church  created 
the  Empire.  But  to  come  to  the  point.  If  the  Pope,  whom  you  insult, 
were  to  summon  a  general  council  of  the  Church,  would  you  come 
to  it  ? 

Luther — I  think  a  general,  free,  Christian  council  would  be  an 

extremely  useful  and  necessary  thing  ;  not  for  us,  indeed,  for  we  know 

the  truth,  but  for  foreign  nations.  But  you  only  pretend  to  call  a 

council,  not  acting  sincerely  nor  really  wishing  for  one.  But  supposing 

1  Vergerio  says  Luther  said  "  twelve  "  ;  this  is  a  mistake. 


you  did  call  a  council,  you  would  only  discuss  useless  things,  cowls, 
priests'  tonsures,  food  and  drink,  and  such  external  things  as,  we 
know,  justify  no  man  before  God.  But  of  faith,  true  penitence,  just- 
ification and  other  necessary  things,  and  how  those  who  believe  in 
spirit  and  in  truth  may  live  at  one  —  of  these  things  you  will  not  so 
much  as  make  mention.  Wherefore  we  do  not  need  a  council,  but  you, 
miserable  men,  do  need  one,  for  your  faith  is  vain  and  uncertain. 

Vergerio  —  Luther,  what  do  you  mean  ?  Beware  lest  you  take  too 
much  on  yourself ;  you  are  a  man  and  can  err.  Do  you  think  you  are 
wiser,  more  learned,  more  holy  than  so  many  councils,  holy  fathers, 
and  learned  men  throughout  the  whole  world  who  confess  Christ  and 
profess  his  religion  ?   It  is  only  your  arrogance  that  rebels. 

Luther  (fiercely)  —  My  arrogance !  I  tell  you,  man,  my  wrath  is 
God's  wrath ! 

Vergerio  —  But  would  you  come  ? 

Luther  —  Yes,  and  lose  my  head.  I  will  appear,  God  willing,  if 
you  burn  me  for  my  faith. 

Vergerio  —  Tell  me  in  what  place  or  city  you  think  the  council 
should  be  called. 

Luther  —  Mantua,  Padua,  Florence  —  it 's  all  one  to  me. 

Vergerio  —  Would  you  come  to  Bologna  ? 

Luther  —  To  whom  does  Bologna  belong  ? 

Vergerio  —  To  the  Pope. 

Luther  —  Good  God !  Has  the  Pope  seized  that  city,  too  ?  Well,  I 
will  come  to  you  there. 

Vergerio  —  Neither  would  the  Pope  refuse  to  come  to  you  at  Wit- 

Luther  — 'Let  him  come,  we  will  receive  him  cordially. 

Vergerio  —  If  he  came  armed  or  in  peace  ? 

Luther  —  As  he  pleases.  Only  let  him  come,  we  will  expect  and 
await  him.  (They  rise  from  table,  and  go  outside  where  Vergerio 's 
retinue  are  awaiting  him.  Vergerio  mounts  his  horse.) 

Vergerio  —  Be  sure  and  be  ready  for  the  council. 

Luther  —  Yes,  my  lord,  with  my  life. 

Of  the  nuncio's  visit  Luther  wrote  on  November  10  to 
Jonas : — 

The  Pope's  legate  appeared  unexpectedly  in  this  city.  He  is  now 
with  the  Margrave  of  Brandenburg ;  one  would  think  he  rather  flew 
than  rode.  Would  that  you  had  been  here  to  see  him !  He  invited 
Bugenhagen  and  me  to  lunch  when  we  had  declined  his  invitation  "  to 


dinner  after  the  bath  "  the  night  before.  I  went  and  ate  with  him  in 
the  castle,  but  what  I  said  is  not  lawful  for  a  man  to  write.  I  played 
Luther  in  the  disagreeablest  words,  of  which  I  shall  tell  you  when  I 
see  you.  I  also  had  to  play  the  part  of  Barnes,  who  was  invited  but 
did  not  go  as  he  will  inform  you. 

On  June  2,  1536,  the  Pope  actually  summoned  the  long 
talked  of  council  to  meet  at  Mantua  on  May  23,  1537.  When 
the  news  reached  Wittenberg  in  December,  1536,  Luther  said : 

If  the  Pope  cites  me  I  will  not  go.  I  spit  on  his  citation  because  he 
is  my  adversary.  But  if  the  council  summons  me  I  will  obey,  and  I 
would  like  to  be  welcome  and  kindly  received.  But  the  bull  Coena 
Domini 1  has  most  horribly  damned  me  and  excommunicated  all  my 
friends.  Even  you,  dear  Katie,  if  you  were  with  me,  would  be  tor- 
tured although  you  adored  the  whole  papacy.  The  Lord  keep  me  in 
his  Word !  I  have  bitter  enemies  and  Vergerio  said  the  Roman  See 
had  no  worse  enemy  than  me. 

Various  methods  were  suggested  by  which  the  Protestants 
might  meet  the  invitation  of  the  Pope  to  take  part  in  the  coun- 
cil. John  Frederic  proposed  that  they  should  call  a  counter- 
council,  an  act  from  which  Luther  dissuaded  him,  as  savoring 
of  wilful  schism.  To  decide  on  a  consistent  course  of  action 
the  Protestant  princes  and  theologians  met  in  a  congress  at 
Schmalkalden  in  February,  1537.  In  preparation  for  this 
Luther  drew  up  a  confession  of  faith,  known  as  the  Schmal- 
kaldic  Articles.  In  emphasizing  the  differences  of  the  Protest- 
ants and  Catholics  the  Articles  formed  a  strong  contrast 
with  the  intentionally  conciliatory  Augsburg  Confession.  The 
chief  points  of  variance  were  stated  to  be  the  following :  1.  That 
men  are  saved  by  faith,  not  by  works.  2.  That  the  mass,  con- 
sidered as  a  good  work,  is  a  horror  and  ought  to  be  abolished. 
3.  That  all  foundations  for  the  endowment  of  perpetual  masses 
be  abolished.  4.  That  the  Pope  is  not  the  head  of  the  universal 
Church  but  only  Bishop  of  Rome.  Melanchthon  modified  this 
statement  by  adding  that  if  the  Pope  left  the  Protestants  to  rule 
themselves,  they  would  not  interfere  with  his  de  facto  suprem- 
acy in  other  parts.  Sundry  other  demands,  of  subordinate 
importance,  were  added. 

1  1521. 


Luther  intended  to  present  his  articles  to  the  congress  in 
person,  but  after  he  arrived  a  severe  attack  of  the  stone  pre- 
vented him  from  taking  part  in  the  sittings  of  the  princes. 
Melanchthon  was  left  at  the  helm,  and  he  induced  the  Elector  to 
substitute  for  the  articles  the  Augsburg  Confession,  supple- 
mented by  a  statement  written  by  himself  on  the  extent  of  the 
papal  power.  These  documents  were  accordingly  accepted  by 
the  allies,  who  decided  not  to  attend  the  council  and  sent  back 
the  Pope's  invitation  unopened.  This  was  a  significant  step. 
Hitherto  the  Protestants  had  claimed  to  be  a  party  within  the 
old  Church,  and  had  repeatedly  requested  a  council  to  decide  on 
the  orthodoxy  of  their  claims.  Now,  however,  they  boldly  pro- 
claimed that  their  communion  was  distinct  from  that  of  Kome. 

All  other  interests,  however,  were  for  the  moment  over- 
shadowed by  Luther's  illness ;  the  chief  fears  of  the  allies  were 
for  his  life.  It  often  happened  to  him  that  a  change  of  scene 
and  diet  proved  unwholesome,  never  more  so  than  now.  His 
old  malady  the  stone  became  very  acute.  His  sufferings  began 
almost  as  soon  as  he  arrived ;  after  February  11  he  was  obliged 
to  keep  to  his  room  in  the  inn.  He  kept  up  his  good  spirits, 
however,  as  is  shown  by  his  letter  to  a  friend  at  home. 


Chalcis  x  (Schmalkalden  ),  February  14,  1537. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  I  wrote  you  yesterday,  dear  Jonas,  that 
is,  on  St.  Valentine's  eve ;  now  I  write  you  on  the  saint's  day,  as  he 
keeps  me  here  against  my  will.  Last  night  Valentine  2  began  to  make 
me  convalescent  from  the  stone  ;  not  indeed  that  Valentine  who  is  the 
idol  of  epileptics,  but  the  true  and  only  valiant  Valentine  who  saves 
those  that  trust  in  him.  I  hope  that  I  shall  at  length  be  well  by  his 
grace.  This  is  the  eighth  day  since  I  stick  or  rather  hang  here,  sick 
and  tired  of  the  place  and  of  the  inn  and  desirous  of  returning.  For  I 
am  useless  here.  The  princes  and  estates  act  differently  from  what  I 
advised  regardless  of  me. 

Dr.  Pauli  and  Dr.  Sindringer  have  become  the  bitterest  enemies  of 
the  Pope.    How  they  tear  him  to  pieces  with  his  own  decrees !  I  will 

1  Pun  on  "  calculus ,"  the  stone. 

2  Pun  on  the  name  of  the  saint  as  the  patron  of  health,  valens. 


tell  you  of  it  when  I  see  you.    Dr.  Held,  the  Emperor's  ambassador, 
arrived  yesterday  and  perhaps  spoke  before  the  congress  to-day. 

I  am  a  beggar  here,  eating  the  bread  of  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse 
and  the  Duke  of  Wurttemburg  (for  they  have  the  best  loaves  and  fishes) 
and  drinking  the  wine  of  Nuremberg ;  our  own  Elector  sends  me  meat 
and  fish.  You  told  me  heavy  bread  caused  the  stone  and  now  I  learn 
it  by  experience,  for  that  is  the  kind  of  bread  we  get  here.  I  have  the 
very  best  trout,  but  they  are  cooked  in  the  same  way  and  with  the  same 
water  as  the  other  fish.  Oh,  it  is  a  merry  dish  !  I  am  accustomed  to 
ask  for  them  uncooked  from  "  the  cooks  of  the  earth,"  *  and  give 
them  to  the  Nuremberg  chef  to  be  prepared.  Our  Elector  cares  for  me 
in  all  things  and  orders  everything  to  be  supplied  to  me  as  carefully 
as  possible,  but  his  orders  are  interfered  with  by  his  toadies,  moadies, 
noadies,  and  loadies.  I  have  nothing  else  to  write.  Farewell  in  the 
Lord  and  pray  for  me. 


Martin  Luther. 

After  the  temporary  respite  just  spoken  of,  the  disease  re- 
sumed its  course.  The  patient  suffered  intense  pain,  as  well  as 
great  discomfort  in  other  ways.  The  doctors  used  all  the 
remedies  in  their  power,  some  of  which  perhaps  did  more  harm 
than  good,  but  at  last  despaired  of  his  life.  During  these  days 
his  old  amanuensis  Veit  Dietrich,  now  a  Nuremberg  clergyman 
attending  the  congress,  was  constantly  with  him  and  according 
to  his  old  practice  again  took  down  his  master's  sayings.  A  few 
of  these 2  illustrating  the  bravery  of  the  sick  man  may  be  of 
interest : — 

Saturday,  February  24,  when  Melanchthon  burst  into  tears  on  see- 
ing Luther,  the  latter  said :  "  John  L5ser  is  accustomed  to  say  that  it 
is  no  credit  to  drink  good  beer,  but  that  the  real  test  is  drinking  bad 
beer ;  I  have  need  of  the  philosophy  now.  Have  we  received  good  at 
the  hands  of  the  Lord  and  shall  we  not  also  receive  evil  ?  As  the  Lord 
willed  so  it  has  happened ;  blessed  be  the  name  of  the  Lord.  In  times 
past  I  have  often  played  a  dangerous  game  with  the  Pope  and  with 
the  devil,  but  the  Lord  marvellously  saved  and  strengthened  me ;  why 

1  "  Cooks  of  the  earth  "  is  an  allusion  to  a  joke  made  hy  Luther's  little  son. 
Asked  by  his  father  who  was  the  dirtiest  (immundus)  cook,  he  replied  "  a  cook  of 
the  earth  (in  mundo)." 

2  Taken  from  Kostlin-Kawerau  :  Martin  Luther,  ii,  388,  where  they  are  quoted 
from  Dietrich's  unpublished  notes, 


should  I  not  now  bear  with  equanimity  what  the  Lord  inflicts  ?  My 
death  is  as  nothing  compared  with  that  of  the  Son  of  God;  many 
great  and  holy  men  have  died  before  me,  whose  companions  I  am  not 
worthy  to  be,  but  if  I  wish  to  be  with  them  I  must  also  die.  There- 
fore I  pray  God  with  good  courage,  for  our  Lord  is  the  Lord  of  life 
and  has  us  in  his  hand. 

"  How  quickly  I  am  changed  by  disease  —  Quantum  mutatus  ab 
illol  But  lately  I  wandered  through  the  woods  in  good  health.  O 
God,  we  are  nothing!  I  should  like  to  pray  our  Lord  God  —  even  to 
complain  a  little  —  that  I  might  die  in  my  Saxony ;  if  that  cannot  be 
I  am  ready  to  die  when  and  where  he  calls  me,  and  I  shall  die  the 
enemy  of  all  the  enemies  of  my  Lord  Jesus  Christ.  If  I  die  under  the 
ban  of  the  Pope,  the  Pope  will  die  under  the  ban  of  my  Lord  Christ." 

The  next  day,  after  a  violent  attack  of  vomiting,  he  said :  <*  Dear 
Father,  take  my  soul  in  thy  hand.  .  .  .  Let  me  die.  If  this  pain  lasts 
longer,  I  shall  go  mad  and  fail  to  recognize  thy  goodness.  If  it  were 
not  for  my  faith  in  Christ  I  would  kill  myself.  The  devil  hates  me 
and  has  his  claws  in  me,  but  do  thou,  God,  avenge  me  on  mine  adver- 
sary ;  let  me  die  and  pay  thou  the  devil  as  he  deserves.'' 

Long  afterwards  he  said  :  — 

Oh,  how  I  wanted  my  wife  and  children  at  Schmalkalden  !  I  thought 
I  would  never  see  them  more.  How  sorrowful  that  separation  made 
me !  I  believe  that  the  natural  love  of  husband  for  wife  and  parents 
for  children  is  greatest  in  dying  people.  But  now  that  I  am  well  again 
by  God's  grace,  I  love  my  wife  and  children  all  the  more.  No  one  is 
so  spiritual  as  not  to  feel  natural  inclination  and  love,  for  the  union  of 
man  and  wife  is  a  great  thing. 

Luther  was  anxious  to  leave  Schmalkalden  so  as  not  to  die  in 
the  vicinity  of  "  that  monster  "  the  Pope's  legate,  and  also  to 
spend  his  last  hours  in  Saxony.  Melanchthon  would  have  held 
him  back  on  account  of  the  new  moon,  but  Luther  was  free 
from  this  form  of  superstition  and  insisted  on  setting  out.  He 
did  so,  in  company  with  Bugenhagen,  Sturtz,  Myconius,  and 
Schlaginhaufen,  on  February  26.  The  jolting  of  the  carriage  on 
the  rough  road  was  such  torture  to  him  that  he  cried  out :  "Would 
that  some  Turk  would  fall  upon  me  and  kill  me!"  At  Tambach, 
only  two  miles  away,  he  was  forced  to  halt.  The  same  night  he 
was  unexpectedly, as  he'believed  miraculously,  relieved.  He  lost 
no  time  in  dictating  the  following  letters:  — 



Tambach,  February  27,  1537. 
Dearest  Philip :  Blessed  be  God  the  Father  of  our  Lord  Jesus 
Christ,  the  Father  of  mercies  and  of  all  consolation,  who  this  night  at 
two  o'clock  took  pity  on  me  and  relieved  my  sufferings.  ...  At 
last  I  was  able  to  pass  water.  ... 

I  am  writing  at  once.  Please  tell  the  news  to  my  dear  and  gracious 
lords  and  all  others,  for  I  know  how  gladly  they  helped  me.  Let  it  go 
with  me  as  God  wills ;  I  am  ready  to  live  or  die,  now  that  I  have  es- 
caped from  the  pit  into  our  own  Saxony,  and  have  here  obtained 
grace.  I  have  written  this  in  haste.  Schlaginhaufen  will  tell  you  the 
rest.  He  cannot  be  kept  back  but  will  fly  to  you.  Thank  God  for 
what  has  happened  and  continue  to  pray  that  he  may  perfect  his  work. 
This  is  an  example  of  how  we  should  pray  and  trust  in  help  from 
heaven.  May  God  preserve  you  all  and  beat  down  Satan  and  all  his 
monstrous  Roman  allies  under  your  feet.  Amen.  Written  at  two 
thirty  in  the  night  from  Tambach,  the  place  of  my  blessing,  which 
is  my  Phanuel  in  which  God  appeared  to  me. 


Martin  Luther. 

The  next  morning  as  Schlaginhaufen  galloped  into  Schmal- 
kalden  with  this  letter,  he  saw  the  Pope's  legate  looking  out  of 
the  window  and  shouted  to  him :  "  Luther  lives."  In  the  mean 
time  word  had  been  dispatched 


Tambach,  February  27,  1537. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Dear  Katie,  if  you  need  horses  on  the 
farm  you  must  hire  them  a  while  longer,  for  the  Elector  is  going  to 
keep  your  horses  and  send  them  home  with  Melanchthon. 

Yesterday  I  left  Schmalkalden  in  the  Elector's  private  carriage.  The 
reason  I  left  was  that  for  three  days  I  have  been  very  unwell,  unable 
to  pass  water  the  whole  time.  I  could  not  rest  nor  sleep  at  night  nor 
keep  anything  on  my  stomach.  In  short  I  was  dead  and  commended 
you  and  the  children  to  God  and  to  my  gracious  Elector,  thinking 
that  I  would  never  see  you  more.  My  heart  was  moved  for  you,  for  I 
thought  I  was  surely  in  the  grave.  But  men  have  prayed  hard  to  God 
and  perhaps  some  have  wept  before  him,  so  that  he  has  healed  me 


this  night.  Wherefore  thank  God  and  ask  the  children  and  Aunt  Lena 
to  do  the  same,  for  you  almost  lost  me.  The  good  Elector  did  everything 
in  his  power  for  me  but  in  vain.  Moreover  your  medicine  l  did  not  help 
me.  But  God  wrought  a  miracle  on  me  this  night,  and  will  continue 
to  do  so  at  the  prayers  of  pious  people. 

I  am  writing  to  you  because  I  heard  that  the  Elector  ordered  his 
bailiff  to  send  you  to  me  so  that  if  I  should  die  on  the  road  you  might 
speak  with  me  again.  There  is  no  need  of  this  now,  as  God  has  helped 
me  so  much  that  I  expect  to  come  soon  and  happily.  To-day  we  are 
going  to  Gotha.  I  have  written  you  four  letters  since  I  left  home  and 
am  surprised  that  nothing  has  come  from  you. 

Martin  Luther. 

The  crisis  was  past,  but  a  period  of  lassitude  and  weakness 
followed.  This  was  so  great  that  when  Luther  reached  Gotha 
he  believed  he  was  going  to  die  after  all.  The  following  day  he 
accordingly  dictated  a  farewell  document  usually  known  as  his 
first  will,  though  it  is  not  at  all  what  we  understand  by  a  test- 
amentary disposition  of  property,  but  rather  a  few  valedictory 
precepts  and  messages  :  — 

luther's  (first)  will 

(Gotha,  February  28,  1537.) 

God  be  praised.  I  know  I  did  right  to  attack  the  papacy,  which 
injures  the  cause  of  God,  Christ,  and  the  gospel. 

Ask  my  dear  Melanchthon,  Jonas,  and  Cruciger  to  forgive  me  what 
wrong  I  have  done  them. 

Console  my  Katie  that  she  may  bear  this,  and  let  her  consider  that 
she  has  been  happy  with  me  twelve  years.  She  has  served  me  not 
only  as  a  wife  but  as  a  servant.  May  God  reward  her  !  Care  for  her 
and  the  children  as  you  can.   - 

Greet  the  deacons  of  my  church  for  me.  The  pious  citizens  of  Wit- 
tenberg have  often  served  me. 

Say  to  my  Prince  the  Elector  and  my  Lord  the  Landgrave  not  to  be 
disturbed  by  the  charges  of  our  enemies  who  allege  that  they  will 
steal  the  church  property,  for  they  will  not  seize  it  as  some  others 
have  done.  I  see  that  they  rather  use  the  church  property  to  support 
religious  undertakings.  If  there  is  any  surplus,  why  should  it  not  go 
to  them  ?    It  certainly  belongs  to  the  princes  rather  than  to  papal 

1  A  mixture  of  garlic  and  horses'  dung. 


wretches.  Bid  them  act  boldly  in  the  Evangelic  cause,  and  do  what 
the  Holy  Spirit  may  suggest ;  I  do  not  prescribe  the  way.  May  God 
the  merciful  strengthen  them  to  remain  in  the  sound  doctrine,  and 
let  them  give  thanks  that  they  are  freed  from  Antichrist.  I  have 
earnestly  commended  them  to  God  in  prayer,  and  hope  that  he  will 
preserve  them  and  that  they  may  not  relapse  into  papal  impiety. 
Even  if  they  are  not  pure  in  all  things  but  sinners  in  some,  let  them 
nevertheless  confide  in  God,  notwithstanding  the  calumnies  and  ac- 
cusations of  our  adversaries.  For  their  sins  are  as  nothing  compared 
to  the  impiety,  blasphemy,  hatred,  and  murders  of  our  antichristian 
enemies.  From  these  sins  God  has  freed  our  princes.  Therefore  let 
them  be  strong  and  proceed  in  the  Lord's  name. 

Now  I  am  prepared  to  die  if  the  Lord  will.  But  I  should  like  to 
live  until  Pentecost,  that  I  may  more  solemnly  and  publicly  accuse 
the  Roman  Beast  and  his  reign.  I  will  do  this  if  I  live ;  I  shall  not 
need  spurs.  Others  will  come  after  me  who  will  deal  more  rudely 
with  that  beast,  although  I,  too,  if  I  live,  will  deal  more  roughly  in 

Now  I  commend  my  soul  into  the  hands  of  my  Lord  Jesus  Christ, 
whom  I  have  preached  and  confessed  on  earth. 

The  weakness  was  not  fatal  after  all,  and  in  five  or  six  days 
Luther  was  able  to  move  on  by  slow  stages.  Jonas  met  him  on 
the  road  with  one  of  Luther's  nieces  as  nurse,  and  Katie  came 
as  far  as  Altenburg  to  see  her  husband.  Here  she  was  enter- 
tained by  George  Spalatin.  Luther  was  soon  able  to  move  on 
again  and  reached  home  on  March  14 ;  a  week  later  he  was 
able  to  write  this  note  :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  March  21,  1537. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  I  am  able  to  write  again,  dear  Spala- 
tin, after  my  long  vacation  from  literary  labors.  By  God's  grace  I  am 
convalescing  slowly,  and  am  learning  to  eat  and  drink  again,  although 
my  knees  and  bones  sink  in  and  are  not  able  to  bear  my  body  stead- 
ily. More  of  my  strength  is  exhausted  than  I  would  have  believed 
possible,  but  I  will  rest  and  take  care  of  myself  until  God  makes  me 
strong  again.  My  Katie  greets  you  and  says  that  she  regrets  that  she 
brought  your  daughters  no  present,  but  that  she  is  going  to  have  some 
books  bound  and  send  them  as  a  souvenir  of  her  visit.    In  the  mean 


time  she  asks  to  be  kindly  remembered  to  you.  She  often  speaks  at 
length  of  your  urbane  benevolence  and  benevolent  urbanity.  Fare- 
well in  Christ  and  pray  for  me. 


Martin  Luther. 

In  anticipation  of  the  calling  of  a  council,  Luther  published, 
in  March,  1539,  an  important  book  On  Councils  and  the 
Church,  at  which  he  had  worked  during  the  winter  of  1536-37 
until  interrupted  by  the  events  just  recorded.  The  first  two 
sections,  which  the  author  himself  termed  "  weak  and  verbose," 
set  forth  the  history  of  the  early  councils  of  the  Church  for 
the  purpose  of  demolishing  their  authority,  and  especially  of 
proving  that  such  bodies  have  no  claim  to  inerrancy  or  obedi- 
ence at  present.  The  third  section  is  on  the  Church,  of  which 
the  writer  exclaims :  "Praise  God,  every  child  of  seven  years  old 
knows  what  it  is."  Nowadays  we  speak  of  many  churches,  to 
Luther  there  was  only  one,  "  the  true,"  set  over  against  "  the 
false  church  "  of  the  papacy.  The  true  Church  he  defines  as 
the  holy  community  of  Christians,  and  one  may  recognize  it  by 
a  number  of  outward  signs,  of  which  the  following  are  the 
most  important :  The  Church  exists  wherever :  (1)  God's  Word 
is  preached,  (2)  baptism  is  administered,  (3)  the  Lord's  Sup- 
per is  eaten,  (4)  tfre  power  of  the  keys  (forgiveness  and  punish- 
ment) is  exercised,  (5)  there  is  a  regular  priesthood,  (6)  public 
prayer,  praise,  and  thanks  are  offered  up,  (7)  there  is  the  cross 
and  persecution.  In  closing,  the  Reformer  gives  a  short  exposi- 
tion of  his  ideas  of  the  divine  economy,  according  to  which 
the  family,  the  State,  and  the  Church  are  the  three  providential 
ordinances  for  the  governance  and  well-being  of  mankind. 

It  being  now  clear  that  the  Protestants  would  not  submit  to 
a  council,  to  which  they  had  earlier  appealed,  the  Emperor 
continued  to  treat  with  them  about  other  means  of  settling  the 
religious  question.  For  this  purpose  a  conference  was  arranged 
at  Frankfort  in  the  spring  of  1539,  the  Lutheran  Church  being 
represented  by  Melanchthon.  The  Emperor  agreed  to  suspend 
all  proceedings  against  the  Protestants  for  fifteen  months,  and 
the  settlement  of  the  religious  question  was  relegated  to  a  Ger- 
man national  synod,  called  to  meet  at  Spires  in  June,  1540. 


No  mention  of  a  general  council  was  made.  That  called  for 
1537  had  been  postponed,  and  did  not  in  fact  meet  until  1545. 
The  treaty  of  Frankfort,  signed  April  19,  1539,  marks  the 
most  important  advance  made  by  the  Lutherans  since  the  peace 
of  Nuremberg,  seven  years  before. 



There  is  no  good  portrait  of  Luther  after  his  forty-third  year, 
but  from  the  numerous  inferior  pictures  painted  by  Lucas  Cran- 
ach's  sons  and  apprentices  and  from  a  number  of  descriptions  it 
is  possible  to  get  a  fairly  good  idea  of  his  personal  appearance. 
The  accounts  are  somewhat  contradictory  in  details,  as,  for  ex- 
ample, his  eyes  are  variously  reported  to  have  been  black,  brown, 
and  dark  with  yellow  rings  around  the  pupils.  Almost  all,  how- 
ever, were  impressed  by  the  restless  fire  that  flashed  from  them, 
and  by  the  lion-like  mien  of  the  man.  In  later  life  his  form  be- 
came portly,  but  in  spite  of  illness  he  retained  a  look  of  uncom- 
mon youth  and  vigor.  His  hair  turned  gray  but  did  not  become 
sparse.  In  his  last  years  traces  of  suffering  and  irritability  ap- 
peared, though  when  he  was  forty-two  even  an  enemy  found  his 
expression  pleasant  and  serene.1 

In  dress  Luther's  tastes  were  of  the  simplest.  His  ordinary 
habit  was  the  layman's  jerkin  and  hose,  which  were  sometimes 
poor  and  patched.  He  occasionally  mended  his  clothes  him- 
self; in  the  first  half  of  1539  Lauterbach  heard  Katie  complain 
that  her  husband  had  cut  a  piece  out  of  his  son's  trousers  to 
supply  his  own.  He  defended  himself  thus  :  — 

The  hole  was  so  large  that  I  had  to  have  a  large  patch  for  it. 
Trousers  seldom  fit  me  well,  so  I  have  to  make  them  last  long.  If  the 
Electors  Frederic  and  John  had  not  better  tailors  than  I  have  they 
would  mend  their  own  breeches.  The  Italian  tailors  are  the  best.  They 
divide  the  labor,  some  making  coats,  some  cloaks,  and  some  trousers. 
But  in  Germany  they  do  it  hit  or  miss,  making  all  trousers  according 
to  one  pattern.  We  praise  the  good  old  times  but  we  live  in  the 
present.  Think  what  an  eye-sore  it  is  to  see  a  man  with  trousers  like 
a  pigeon  and  a  coat  so  short  that  one  can  see  his  back  between  it  and 
1  Cf.  supra,  visit  of  Vergerio,  Chapter  xxviii. 


the  trousers.     There  is  a  proverb  that  "short-coated  Saxons  jump 
like  magpies." 

On  festive  occasions  and  when  preaching,  Luther  wore  a  gown 
and  on  gala  days  a  gold  chain  around  his  neck,  an  attempt  at 
adornment  which  a  polished  and  hostile  Italian  gentleman  who 
saw  him  in  1535  found  rather  ridiculous.1  At  all  times  a  silver 
ring  graced  one  finger.  Luther's  standards  of  cleanliness  were 
relatively  high.  He  had  a  bath-room  with  tubs  in  his  house ;  after 
using  it  one  day  he  remarked,  at  dinner :  — 

Why  is  the  water  so  dirty  after  bathing  ?  Ah !  I  forgot  that  the 
body  is  dirt,  as  the  Bible  says,  "  Thou  art  dust  and  ashes."  Why  art 
thou  proud,  O  man  ? 

The  day  began  early,  the  time  of  rising  varying  according  to 
the  season.  The  morning  was  devoted  to  lecturing  and  preach- 
ing, though  Luther  frequently  felt  headache  and  dizziness  which 
prevented  him  from  doing  much  work.  The  principal  meal  of 
the  day  came  at  ten  o'clock,  after  which  the  long  afternoon  was 
spent  in  writing  and  other  business.  After  supper  at  five  o'clock 
the  evening  was  spent  in  conversation,  reading,  or  work  until 
nine,  the  regular  bedtime.  Of  his  evening  devotions  he  once 
said :  — 

I  have  to  hurry  all  day  to  get  time  to  pray.  It  must  suffice  me  if 
I  can  say  the  Ten  Commandments,  the  Lord's  Prayer,  and  one  or 
two  petitions  besides,  thinking  of  which  I  fall  asleep. 

Luther's  enemies  called  him  a  glutton  and  a  wine-bibber.  But 
in  the  monastery  he  had  fasted  until  he  became  emaciated, 
and  in  later  life  his  ill  health  often  made  it  difficult  for  him  to 
eat.  In  general  he  tried  to  eat,  thinking  it  good  for  his  health 
and  spirits,  as  when  he  said :  - — 

This  morning  the  devil  had  a  dispute  with  me  about  Zwingli  and  I 
found  a  full  head  better  able  to  withstand  the  fiend  than  one  weakened 
with  fasting. 

And  again : — 

We  ought  t«  do  our  part  and  take  care  of  our  bodies ;  when  we  are 
tempted,  abstinence  is  a  hundred  times  worse  than  eating  and  drink- 

1  Vergerio.  Cf.  supra,  Chapter  xxvui. 


ing.  Had  I  followed  my  appetite  I  should  have  taken  nothing  for  three 
days,  but  I  do  eat  though  without  pleasure.  The  world  sees  it  and  calls 
it  drunkenness,  but  God  will  judge  it  rightly.  .  .  .  Sleep  is  also  a  good 
thing ;  when  I  lie  awake  the  devil  comes  at  once  to  dispute  with  me 
until  I  say :  "  Devil,  go  hang,1  God  is  not  angry  with  me  as  you  say." 

Of  good  drink  Luther  was.  undoubtedly  fond,  but  his  practice 
in  this  respect  must  be  judged  by  the  standard  of  his  age.  No 
one  advocated  total  abstinence,  and  the  greatest  licence  was 
allowed  not  only  to  moderate  indulgence  but  to  intemperance. 
Charles  V  is  reported  to  have  taken  habitually  three  quarts  of 
wine  at  dinner  —  some  authorities  say  more  —  and  he  was  never 
charged  with  excess  in  this  respect,  as  was  the  Elector  John  Fred- 
eric. Luther  had  special  reasons  for  his  potations.  It  is  now 
believed  that  alcohol  is  little  better  than  poison  to  one  suffering 
as  he  did  from  diseases  of  the  nerves  or  of  the  kidneys,  but  four 
centuries  ago  drink  was  actually  prescribed  for  these  ailments, 
and  moreover  he  took  a  "  strong  little  potation  "  at  bedtime  to 
make  himself  sleep.  Other  motives  are  more  questionable,  as, 
for  example,  when  he  tells  Weller  that  he  often  drinks  freely  to 
"  spite  the  devil."  2 

Nevertheless,  Luther  certainly  stopped  short  of  intemperance. 
No  one  who  did  the  enormous  amount  of  work  that  he  did 
could  have  been  an  habitual  drunkard.  In  a  sermon  to  the 
courtiers  he  tells  them  that,  though  constant  intemperance  is 
not  to  be  borne,  an  occasional  carouse  may  be  overlooked.  Did 
he  allow  himself  these  occasional  carouses?  The  argument  from 
silence  is  in  this  case  decisive  in  the  negative ;  knowing  almost 
every  act  of  his  private  life  for  fifteen  years,  we  never  once 
hear  of  such  an  outburst.  At  times,  however,  his  conviviality 
bordered  on  the  extreme,  and  that  he  was  always  appreciative 
of  the  merits  of  good  liquor  may  be  gathered  from  the  fact  that 
when  he  is  away  from  home  he  almost  always  writes  of  the 
cheer  he  is  having.  For  example,  while  visiting  the  Princes  of 
Anhalt,  he  sent  the  following  epistle  :  — 

1  Luther's  stronger  expression  will  not  bear  literal  translation. 

2  Letter  to  Jerome  Weller,  July,  1530. 



(Dessau,)  July  29,  1534. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Dear  Master  Katie,  I  have  nothing  to 
write,  as  Melanchthon  and  others  are  going  to  Wittenberg  and  will  tell 
you  all  the  news.  I  must  stay  here  for  the  sake  of  good  Prince  Joachim. 
Imagine  if  you  can  why  I  should  stay  so  long  or  why  you  ever  let  me 
go.  I  think  Francis  Burkhardt *  would  be  willing  to  see  me  depart,  as 
I  would  him.  Yesterday  I  shipped  some  bad  beer  for  which  I  had  to 
sing  out.2    There  is  nothing  fit  to  drink  here,  for  which  I  am  sorry  as 

I  like  it,  and  think  what  good  wine  and  beer  I  have  at  home,  and  also 
a  fair  lady  (or  should  I  say  lord  ?)  It  would  be  a  good  thing  for  you 
to  send  me  the  whole  wine-cellar  and  a  bottle  of  your  own  beer  as 
often  as  you  can.  If  you  don't  I  shall  not  come  back  for  the  new  beer. 
God  bless  you  and  the  children  and  household.  Amen. 

Your  lover, 

Martin  Luther. 

The  most  damaging  evidence,  however,  has  been  found  in  an 
autograph  of  the  Vatican  Archives,  first  published  in  1880.  The 
content  of  the  epistle  is  somewhat  unguarded,  and  the  signa- 
ture, which  is  very  hard  to  decipher,  was  read  "  Dr.  plenus  "  3 
and  interpreted  "  Dr.  Full,"  a  welcome  proof  to  the  Catholic 
publisher  of  the  author's  intoxication  at  the  time  he  wrote.  I 
believe,  however,  that  this  is  not  the  true  reading,  and  accord- 
ingly give  another,  with  a  translation  of  the  most  important 
part  of  the  jocose  missive :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  March  1,  1536. 

...  Pray  tell  his  Grace  of  Mansf eld  from  me  to  be  merry,  as  in 

the  story  of  the  two  students  and  the  cook.    People  begin  to  say,  or 

murmur,  that  a  great  deal  depends  on  cheerfulness,  and  I  half  believe 

them.  I  have  n't  written  to  his  Grace  myself  for  fear  that  the  Buck 

1  The  Saxon  agent,  later  vice-chancellor. 

2  "The  English  slang  expression,  "  to  sing  out,"  is  given  in  Grimm's  Deutsckes 
Worterbuch,  x,  1,  1009,  as  a  translation  for  the  German  colloquialism  here  used. 

8  So  also  in  Enders,  x,  137.  Other  readings  are  "  Dr.  Hans,"  "  Dr.  plures,"  and 

II  Dr.  parvus."  After  a  careful  comparison  with  photographs  of  the  original,  I 
have  adopted  the  reading  of  Prof.  H.  Bohmer  (Luther  im  Lichte  der  neueren  For- 
schung,  2ded.  1910,  p.  116). 


of  Liibeck 1  would  make  a  fool  of  me.  Yet  as  I  now  and  then  cast  an 
inquisitive  eye  on  his  Grace,  please  tell  him  my  opinion.  What  harm 
does  a  little  jollity  do  ?  The  beer  is  good,  the  maid  fair,  the  boys  young. 
The  students  are  so  merry  that  I  am  sorry  that  my  health  prevents 
me  being  oftener  with  them.  Understand  me  like  the  poor,  simple 
sheep  you  are  said  to  be.  I  would  willingly  be  good  but  I  fear  that  I 
can  never  be  as  simple  as  you  are.  God  bless  you  and  greet  all  good 
friends.  Amen. 

Dr.  Martin. 

Dr.  Luther. 

Dr.  Johannes. 
P.  S.  —  My  Lord  Katie  sends  her  greetings  and  so  does  your  god- 
son Hans. 

The  three  signatures  are  for  the  three  persons  who  send 
greetings  to  Miiller,  Dr.  Martin,  "  my  Lord  Katie  "  as  Dr. 
Luther,  and  nine-year  old  Hans  (Dr.  Johannes). 

Occasionally  good  stories  2  are  told  as  to  the  quantity  Luther 
drank,  but  that  he  became  intoxicated  is  never  recorded.  Of 
the  charges  brought  by  his  enemies,  he  once  said  :  "  If  God  can 
forgive  me  for  having  crucified  him  with  masses  twenty  years 
long,  he  can  also  bear  with  me  for  occasionally  taking  a  good 
drink  to  honor  him.  God  allows  it,  the  world  may  take  it  as  it 

Luther  has  been  charged  by  his  enemies,  from  his  own  day  to 
the  present,  with  being  a  profligate  as  well  as  a  drunkard  —  the 
two  usually  going  together.  This  accusation  may  be  summarily 
denied.  In  the  age  of  Henry  VIII,  Francis  I,  and  Philip  of 
Hesse,  the  example  of  the  monk  of  Wittenberg  was  a  striking 
contrast  to  the  prevalent  immorality.  So  light  indeed  was  the 
condemnation  visited  upon  sexual  offences  in  that  licentious  age 
that  one  of  the  Kef ormer's  guests  once  asked  him  if  simple  for- 
nication was  a  sin  at  all.  He  replied  by  quoting  1  Corinthians, 
vi,  9.  At  another  time  he  wrote  a  most  uncompromising  opinion 
of  houses  of  ill-fame ;  the  conversion  of  Freiberg  had  been  ac- 
companied by  the  abolition  of  these  dens,  but  it  was  later  pro- 
posed to  reinstate  them  on  the  customary  plea  that  regulated 
vice  was  the  lesser  of  two  evils.   When  Weller,  now  the  pastor 

1  Waa  the  Buck  of  Liibeck,  a  person,  a  spirit,  or  a  tavern  ? 

2  As  at  the  banquet  given  to  Agricola.  Cf .  Chapter  xxv,  p.  284. 


of  that  town,  wrote  to  his  chief  to  ascertain  the  stand  he  should 
take  in  the  matter,  he  received  the  following  injunctions  :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  September  8,  1540. 
Grace  and  peace.  Dear  Jerome,  have  nothing  to  do  with  those  who 
wish  to  reintroduce  houses  of  ill-fame.  It  would  have  been  better  never 
to  have  expelled  the  devil 'than  to  have  done  so  only  to  bring  him  back 
again  stronger  than  ever.  Let  those  who  favor  this  course  deny  the 
name  of  Christ  and  become  as  heathen  ignorant  of  God.  We  who  are 
Christians  cannot  do  so.  We  have  the  plain  text :  u  Whoremongers 
and  adulterers  God  will  judge,"  much  more,  therefore,  will  he  judge 
those  who  protect  and  encourage  vice.  How  can  the  priests  preach 
against  impurity  if  the  magistrates  encourage  it  ?  They  allege  the 
precedent  of  Nuremberg,  but  forget  that  she  is  the  only  town  that  has 
thus  sinned.  If  the  young  men  cannot  contain,  let  them  marry  —  in- 
deed, what  is  the  use  of  marriage  if  we  permit  vice  unpunished  ?  We 
have  learned  by  experience  that  regulated  vice  does  not  prevent 
adultery  and  worse  sins,  but  rather  encourages  them  and  condones 
them.  .  .  .  Let  the  magistrate  punish  one  as  well  as  the  other,  and 
if  there  is  then  secret  vice,  at  least  he  is  not  to  blame  for  it.  We  can 
neither  do  nor  permit  nor  tolerate  anything  against  God's  command. 
We  must  do  right  if  the  world  comes  to  an  end.  Farewell  in  haste. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

If  Luther's  life  was  pure,  his  words  certainly  were  not  so  at 
all  times.  It  strikes  the  modern  reader  with  no  less  than  aston- 
ishment, almost  with  horror,  to  find  the  great  moralist's  private 
talk  with  his  guests  and  children,  his  lectures  to  the  students, 
even  his  sermons,  thickly  interlarded  with  words,  expressions, 
and  stories,  such  as  to-day  are  confined  to  the  frequenters  of  the 
lowest  bar-rooms.  The  only  justification  for  this  is  to  be  found 
in  the  universal  practice  of  the  day.  Not  only  was  the  popular 
literature  of  the  time  unspeakably  filthy,  but  the  conversation 
of  the  best  society  had  a  liberty  exceeding  that  of  the  men  and 
women  of  Shakespeare's  plays.  Shocking  stories  are  told  of 
the  conversation  of  England's  virgin  queen,  and  Margaret  of 
Navarre,  one  of  the  most  devout  and  refined  women  of  the  six- 
teenth century,  wrote  a  series  of  stories  that  no  decent  woman 
can  now  read  with  pleasure.  In  that  day  it  was  thought  strange 


that  any  one  should  be  forbidden  to  speak  of  things  of  which 
every  one  knows. 

With  all  possible  excuses  allowed  in  extenuation  of  the  Wit- 
tenberg professor's  talk,  it  is  to  be  regretted  that  he  did  not 
rise  above  the  level  of  his  age.  If  his  student  Mathesius  found 
nothing  shameful  in  his  words  his  friend  Melanchthon  did.  No 
amount  of  precedent  can  excuse  the  disgusting  things  he  some- 
times said  about  his  private  relations  with  Katie.1  At  times  it 
seemed  as  if  he  allowed  himself  liberty  in  this  regard  as  in 
drinking,  "  to  spite  the  devil "  — a  strange  expression  which  he 
undoubtedly  meant  literally.  At  other  times  his  good  humor 
ran  away  with  him.  In  one  letter  he  seems  to  condone  loose 
talk  under  certain  circumstances :  — 


Wittenberg,  May  23, 1534. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Serene  Prince,  gracious  Lord !  Haus- 
mann  has  told  me  that  your  Grace  has  been  a  little  unwell,  but  are 
now,  thank  God,  again  in  good  condition. 

It  often  occurs  to  me  that,  as  your  Grace  leads  a  quiet  life,  mel- 
ancholy and  sad  thoughts  may  be  the  cause  of  such  indisposition  ; 
wherefore  I  advise  your  Grace,  as  a  young  man,  to  be  merry,  to  ride, 
hunt,  and  keep  good  company,  who  can  cheer  your  Grace  in  a  godly 
and  honorable  way.  For  loneliness  and  sadness  are  simple  poison  and 
death,  especially  to  a  young  man.  God  has  often  commanded  us  to  be 
joyful  before  him,  and  will  suffer  no  sad  offering,  as  Moses  often 
wrote,  and  as  it  is  often  written  in  Ecclesiastes :  "  Rejoice,  young  man, 
in  thy  youth,  and  let  thy  heart  be  of  good  cheer."  No  one  knows  how  it 
hurts  a  young  man  to  avoid  happiness  and  cultivate  solitude  and  mel- 
ancholy. Your  Grace  has  Hausmann  and  several  others  with  whom  to 
be  merry.  Joy  and  good  humor,  in  honor  and  seemliness,  is  the  best 
medicine  for  a  young  man,  yea  for  all  men.  I,  who  have  hitherto 
spent  my  life  in  mourning  and  sadness,  now  seek  and  accept  joy 
wherever  I  can  find  it.  We  now  know,  thank  God,  that  we  can  be 
happy  with  a  good  conscience,  and  can  use  God's  gifts  with  thankful- 
ness, inasmuch  as  he  has  made  them  for  us  and  is  pleased  to  have  us 
enjoy  them. 

1  These  are  quite  unquotable,  but  are  sufficiently  numerous  to  be  easily  found 
in  the  originals,  e.  g.,  Bindseil:  Lutheri  Colloquia,  ii,  299. 


If  I  have  not  hit  the  cause  of  your  Grace's  indisposition  and  have 
thereby  done  you  a  wrong,  your  Grace  will  kindly  forgive  my  mistake. 
For  truly  I  thought  your  Grace  might  be  so  foolish  as  to  think  it  a  sin 
to  be  happy,  as  I  have  often  done  and  still  do  at  times.  It  is  true  that 
joy  in  sin  is  the  devil,  but  joy  with  good,  pious  people,  in  the  fear  of 
God,  and  with  moderation  pleases  him,  even  if  an  indecent 1  word  or 
two  now  and  then  slips  in.  Your  Grace  should  be  happy  in  all  things, 
inwardly  in  Christ  and  outwardly  in  God's  gifts  ;  for  he  gives  them  to 
us  that  we  may  have  pleasure  in  them  and  thank  him  for  them.  Sor- 
row and  melancholy  bring  on  old  age  and  other  evils  before  their  time. 
Christ  cares  for  us  and  will  not  leave  us.  I  commend  your  Grace  to 
him  eternally.  Amen. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

This  letter  is  characteristic  of  Luther's  naturally  joyous  tem- 
per. He  was,  as  Mathesius  called  him,  "  a  joyous,  frolicsome 
companion.'*  His  good  humor  bursts  forth  on  all  occasions  when 
not  crushed  out  by  ill  health  or  overwork.  Another  letter  bub- 
bling over  with  it  is  to  the  same  good  friend :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  June  12, 1534. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Gracious  Prince  and  Lord  !  John  Beich- 
ling  has  brought  me  very  good  news,  namely,  that  your  Grace  is  very 
merry.  For  truly  I  prayed  without  ceasing  (as  did  my  gracious  lord,2 
the  cathedral  provost),  "  O  God,  make  my  prince  sound  and  happy," 
and  I  expected  he  would.  And  as  soon  as  I  have  fed  the  printer  a  lit- 
tle bit 8  so  that  I  can  have  rest,  I  will  come  to  you  with  Pomeranian 

1  Wort  oder  Zotlein  zu  viel.  Luther's  defenders  try  hard  to  prove  that  "  Zote  " 
here  means  nothing  more  than  "  idle  talk  "  or  "  anecdote,"  and  they  are  supported 
hy  the  excellent  German  dictionary  of  Daniel  Sanders  (Grimm's  monumental  lexi- 
con being  complete  only  to  the  letter  S),  iii,  1779.  Sanders  assigns  the  mean- 
ing of  "indecency"  to  every  other  use  of  this  word,  modern  and  by  Luther 
and  his  contemporaries,  except  this  place.  This  is  of  course  arguing  in  a  circle 
from  a  preconceived  notion.  The  innocent  meaning  here  given,  besides  being 
otherwise  unsupported,  would  have  no  sense,  for  why  should  Luther  especially 
excuse  what  is  entirely  innocent,  or  how  can  a  "simple  anecdote"  be  "too 
much  "  ? 

2  Joachim's  brother,  Prince  George  of  Anhalt. 

8  With  the  German  Bible  now  coming  out  as  a  whole  for  the  first  time.  The  in- 
tended visit  took  place  in  July.  Cf.  the  letter  to  Katie  of  July  29,  1534,  translated 
just  above,  p.  319. 


Bugenhagen  and  his  little  pomeranians  and  marmots,  so  that  my  gra- 
cious lady  your  wife  may  see  how  like  the  old  dog  the  puppies  are  and 
how  merry.  God  bless  you.  Amen.  Your  Grace  must  really  look  out 
for  that  marvellous  chess-player,  Francis  Burkhardt,1  for  he  is  quite 
sure  that  he  can  play  the  game  like  a  professional.  I  would  give  a  but- 
ton to  see  him  play  as  well  as  he  thinks  he  can.  He  can  manage  the 
knights,  take  a  castle  or  two,  and  fool  the  peasant-pawns,  but  the  queen 
beats  him  on  account  of  his  weakness  for  the  fair  sex,  which  he  cannot 

Your  Grace's  obedient  servant, 

Martin  Luther. 

Luther's  constant  advice  to  his  friends  to  cultivate  the  virtue 
of  cheerfulness  was  made  the  more  emphatic  by  the  fact  that  he 
himself  was  often  subject  to  melancholy  and  depression.  His 
letters  and  table-talk  are  full  of  counsel  to  young  friends  on  the 
subject,  the  best  perhaps  being  in  an  epistle  written  to  Jerome 
Weller  at  Wittenberg  while  the  Reformer  was  at  Teste  Coburg 
in  the  summer  of  1530.  He  says  :  — 

Whenever  this  temptation  comes  to  you  beware  not  to  dispute  with 
the  devil  nor  allow  yourself  to  dwell  on  these  lethal  thoughts,  for  so 
doing  is  nothing  less  than  giving  place  to  the  devil  and  so  falling.  Try 
as  hard  as  you  can  to  despise  these  thoughts  sent  by  Satan.  In  this  sort 
of  temptation  and  battle  contempt  is  the  easiest  road  to  victory  ;  laugh 
your  enemy  to  scorn  and  ask  to  whom  you  are  talking.  By  all  means 
flee  solitude,  for  he  lies  in  wait  most  for  those  alone.  This  devil  is  con- 
quered by  despising  and  mocking  him,  not  by  resisting  and  arguing. 
Therefore,  Jerome,  joke  and  play  games  with  my  wife  and  others,  in 
which  way  you  will  drive  out  your  diabolic  thoughts  and  take  cour- 
age. .  .  . 

Be  strong  and  cheerful  and  cast  out  those  monstrous  thoughts. 
Whenever  the  devil  harasses  you  thus,  seek  the  company  of  men  or 
drink  more,  or  joke  and  talk  nonsense,  or  do  some  other  merry  thing. 
Sometimes  we  must  drink  more,  sport,  recreate  ourselves,  aye,  and  even 
sin  a  little  to  spite  the  devil,  so  that  we  leave  him  no  place  for  troub- 
ling our  consciences  with  trifles.  We  are  conquered  if  we  try  too  con- 
scientiously not  to  sin  at  all.  So  when  the  devil  says  to  you  :  "  Do  not 
drink,"  answer  him  :  "  I  will  drink,  and  right  freely,  just  because 

1  Later  vice-chancellor  of  Electoral  Saxony.    Luther  played  a  good  game  of 

chess,  himself.  » 


you  tell  me  not  to."  One  must  always  do  what  Satan  forbids.  What 
other  cause  do  you  think  that  I  have  for  drinking  so  much  strong  drink, 
talking  so  freely  and  making  merry  so  often,  except  that  I  wish  to 
mock  and  harass  the  devil  who  is  wont  to  mock  and  harass  me.  "Would 
that  I  could  contrive  some  great  sin  to  spite  the  devil,  that  he  might 
understand  that  I  would  not  even  then  acknowledge  it  and  that  I  was 
conscious  of  no  sin  whatever.  We,  whom  the  devil  thus  seeks  to  annoy, 
should  remove  the  whole  decalogue  from  our  hearts  and  minds. 

No  picture  of  Luther  would  be  complete  without  making  his 
humor  conspicuous.1  He  was  as  fond  of  a  joke  or  a  good  story 
as  was  Abraham  Lincoln ;  his  letters  and  table-talk  are  as  full 
of  puns  as  are  Shakespeare's  plays.  Like  all  puns  they  can  only 
be  appreciated  in  the  original.  But  of  his  stories,  many  of  them 
indeed  old  in  his  time,  some  specimens  must  be  given,  in  order, 
as  the  old  English  translation  of  the  table  talk-puts  it,  "to  re- 
fresh and  recreate  the  company  "  :  — 

"Whatever  one  does  in  the  world  is  wrong.  It  is  with  me  as  in  the 
fable  of  the  old  man,  his  son,  and  the  ass  ; 2  whatever  I  do  is  wrong. 
One  physician  advises  me  to  bathe  my  feet  at  bedtime,  another 
before  dinner,  a  third  in  the  morning,  and  a  fourth  at  noon  ;  whatever 
I  do  displeases  some.  So  it  is  in  other  things ;  if  I  speak  I  am  turbu- 
lent, if  I  keep  silence  I  spit  on  the  cross.  Then  Master  Wiseacre  comes 
along  and  hits  the  poor  beast  on  the  rump. 

Rustics  are  not  equal  to  public  affairs  and  spectacles,  as  is  proved 
by  the  passion  play.  "When  a  cobbler  began  to  say  his  lines  he  could 
only  stammer  out,  "I  am  .  .  ,  I  am  ..."  at  which  the  manager  re- 
torted, "What  are  you  then?"  He  replied,  "I  am  a  cobbler,"  and 
the  manager  rejoined,  "What  are  you  doing  here,  then?  Go  home 
and  mend  shoes."  8 

I  am  the  father  of  a  great  people,  like  Abraham,  for  I  am  respon- 
sible for  all  the  children  of  the  monks  and  nuns  who  have  renounced 
their  monastic  vows. 

1  Cf .  E.  Rolffs :  Luther's  Humor  ein  Stuck  seiner  Religion.  In  Preussische  Jakr- 
bucher,  1904,  civ,  468-488. 

2  Luther  may  have  read  this  fable  in'iEsop.  It  is  also  found  in  Poggio  :  Sales 
et  Facetiae,  1470,  and  from  him  in  La  Fontaine,  who  entitles  it,  "  Le  meunier,  son 
Jils  et  Vcine." 

8  The  two  chief  cycles  of  miracle  plays  at  this  time  given  in  Germany  were  the 
nativity  cycle  and  the  resurrection  cycle.  They  were  evidently  sometimes  given 
in  the  style  of  Pyramus  and  Thisbe,  played  by  Bottom  the  Weaver  and  company. 


Women  wear  veils  because  of  the  angels ;  I  wear  trousers  because  of 
the  girls. 

Peasants  are  proudest  of  wealth  and  yet  uncouth,  as  can  be  seen  by 
the  story  of  one  who  could  not  keep  a  fly  from  lighting  on  his  spoon 
and  so  finally  ate  it  with  his  food.  Another  rustic  in  Mansfeld  had 
trouble  in  keeping  a  robin  from  perching  on  his  bowl  and  so  at  last 
ate  it  alive,  and  when  he  heard  it  still  chirping  in  his  stomach,  said, 
"  So  you  keep  on  peeping,  do  you  ?  "  and  poured  down  a  schooner  of 
beer  to  drown  it. 

A  man  was  burned  at  Prague  for  teaching  his  dog  to  jump  through 
a  ring  when  he  said,  ^  Luther."  O  Lord,  how  wondrous  are  thy  ways  ! 

When  I  am  dead  I  shall  be  a  ghost  to  plague  bishops  and  priests 
and  godless  monks,  so  that  they  will  have  more  trouble  with  one  dead 
Luther  than  with  a  thousand  living. 

A  liar  must  be  careful.  I  sinned  against  this  rule  when  I  was  a 
student  and  said  that  permission  had  not  been  granted  to  take  baths 
on  Sunday.  An  excellent  story  illustrating  the  same  point  is  told  about 
a  man  who  said  he  had  seen  some  bees  as  big  as  sheep.  When  asked 
how  they  could  get  through  the  little  holes  into  their  hives,  he  replied, 
"  Oh,  I  let  them  think  of  that  for  themselves." 

Cannon  are  the  very  invention  of  Satan  himself,  for  here  one  cannot 
fight  with  sword  or  fist  and  all  bravery  perishes.  Death  comes  before 
one  sees  it.  If  Adam  had  seen  such  instruments  as  his  children  were 
to  make  he  would  have  died  of  sorrow. 

Some  of  the  stories  will  surprise  those  who  conceive  of  a  re- 
former as  a  grave  and  proper  curate ;  such  is  the  comparison 
of  three  preachers  with  the  persons  of  the  Trinity :  — 

Bugenhagen  is  Minos,  Rorer  Aeacus,  and  CrOdel  Rhadamanthus. 
They  are  one  substance  in  three  persons,  Bugenhagen  the  Father, 
ROrer  the  Son,  and  Cr5del  the  Holy  Ghost.  They  simply  won't  let  me 
alone,  I  have  to  do  the  Kyrie  Eleison  for  CrOdel  because  he  gave  me 
three  or  four  kegs  of  beer ;  ROrer  orders  me  about  the  gospels  and 
collects ;  and  if  Bugenhagen  hears  of  some  things  I  do,  I  shall  have  to 

Another  joke  on  Bugenhagen,  who,  notwithstanding  his 
dignified  position  in  both  the  upper  and  lower  worlds,  seems  to 
have  been  unable  to  deliver  a  palatable  sermon,  was  made  about 
the  same  time  as  the  last :  — 


When  a  woman  put  badly  cooked  food  before  her  husband,  he  said, 
"  Oh,  I  expected  that  Bugenhagen  would  preach  to-day." 

Some  of  Luther's  remarks  have  a  humor  to  us  not  intended 
by  him.  Such  is  his  naive  opinion  of  the  French  mode  of  ad- 
dress :  — 

The  question  was  mooted  whether  it  were  a  sin  to  curse  a  French- 
man, for  they  themselves  have  the  custom  of  greeting  their  best  friends 
with  a  curse,  as,  "  Pest  and  pox  take  you,  my  dear  sir."  Is  it  then  a 
sin  when  the  mind  is  free  from  hatred  ?  Luther  said :  "  Our  words 
should  be  Yea  and  Nay,  and  the  name  of  the  Lord  is  not  to  be  taken 
in  vain,  but  it  may  well  be  that  their  curses  are  more  innocent  than 
many  a  good-morning  with  us." 

Luther's  constant  good  spirits  and  joyousness  are  remarkable 
when  it  is  considered  that  he  was  a  prey  to  several  torturing 
diseases.  Indigestion  with  painful  complications  had  set  in  at 
the  Wartburg,  and  occasionally  returned.  In  1523  he  first  ex- 
perienced that  nervous  disease  which  throughout  his  life  made 
him  suffer  from  dizziness,  ringing  in  the  ears,  and  sleeplessness. 
Stone,  at  that  time  a  very  common  disease  of  kidneys  and  bladder, 
began  in  1526  and  became  continually  worse  until  the  almost 
fatal  attack  in  1537.  Gout,  rheumatism,  sciatica,  ulcers,  ab- 
scesses in  the  ears,  toothache,  and  palpitation  of  the  heart  grad- 
ually added  their  pains  to  make  his  life  a  constant  agony.  He 
obtained  little  relief  from  physicians.  He  believed  alcohol,  a 
certain  irritant,  to  be  good  for  the  stone  and  for  insomnia.  Other 
medicines  prescribed  undoubtedly  made  him  rather  worse  than 
better ;  such  were  the  disgusting  remedies  he  took  at  Schinalkal- 
den.1  His  troubles  become  increasingly  prominent  in  his  letters 
and  table-talk.  He  always  used  what  means  were  available  for 
recovery,  though,  indeed,  the  medical  science  of  that  day  was 
barbarous.  Once  he  said :  — 

Our  burgomaster  asked  me  whether  it  was  against  God's  will  to 
use  medicine,  for  Carlstadt  publicly  preached  that  the  sick  should  not 
use  drugs,  but  should  only  pray  to  God  that  his  will  be  done.  In  reply 
I  asked  the  burgomaster  if  he  ate  when  he  was  hungry,  and  when  he 
answered  in  the  affirmative,  I  said,  "  You  may  then  use  medicine 

1  Cf.  letter  to  Katie,  February  27,  1537,  p.  312,  note. 


which  is  God's  creature  as  much  as  food,  drink,  and  other  bodily 


It  is  no  wonder  that  irritability  and  world-weariness  grew 
upon  the  afflicted  man.  To  his  friend  Miiller,  Luther  writes, 
for  example,  in  a  very  melancholy  way  :  — 


(Wittenbehg,)  January  19,  1536. 

Grace  and  peace.  My  dear  Chancellor,  I  have  long  been  desirous  of 
writing  you  but  have  been  laid  up  with  a  cold  and  cough.  But  my 
chief  illness  is  that  the  sun  has  shone  on  me  too  long,  a  disease,  you  know, 
common  and  fatal  to  many.  It  makes  some  blind,  others  gray,  sallow 
and  wrinkled.  Perhaps  the  trouble  with  your  toe  is  that  you  stubbed 
it  on  a  piece  of  mud  hardened  by  the  sun,  albeit  it  is  not  the  fault  of 
the  dear  sun  that  it  hardens  mud  and  softens  wax,  for  everything  must 
act  according  to  its  nature  and  find  its  own  place  at  last. 

Of  all  things  I  should  have  liked  to  take  Kegel  as  a  boarder,  but  as  our 
student  eating-club  is  just  back  from  Jena 1  the  table  is  full  and  I  can- 
not turn  away  old  friends.  But  when  a  place  is  vacant,  as  may  happen 
at  Easter,  I  will  take  him  if  my  Lord  Katie  is  gracious  to  me. 

Of  the  English  embassy,2  as  you  at  Mansf  eld  are  so  curious,  I  know 
nothing  especial.  Queen  Catharine  has  just  died,  and  they  say  her 
daughter  is  mortally  ill.  She  lost  her  cause  with  all  the  world  except 
with  us  poor  beggars  the  Wittenberg  theologians.  We  would  have 
kept  her  in  her  royal  honor  as  was  right.  But  this  is  the  end  and  final 
decision.  The  Pope  acted  in  this  matter  like  the  Pope,  promulgating 
contradictory  bulls  and  playing  such  a  double  game  that  it  served  him 
right  to  be  turned  out  of  England,  even  if  the  Evangelic  teaching  did 
not  profit  thereby.  He  cheated  the  king  so  that  I  could  almost  excuse 
his  Majesty,  though  I  do  not  approve  all  his  acts.  Friend,  let  us  pray 
that  the  Pope  get  a  stroke  of  epilepsy.  The  Pope's  nuncio  was  here, 
as  you  know,  but  I  have  not  time  to  relate  the  answer  he  took  back 
to  Schmalkalden.  My  cough  prevents  me  hunting  for  it ;  if  I  stop 
coughing  I  will  look  for  it.  I  think  my  cough  would  leave  off  if 
you  would  pray  for  me.  .  .  . 

My  Lord  Katie  greets  you  and  asks,  although  I  am  already  too  much 

1  The  university,  and  with  it  Luther's  student  boarders,  had  removed  to  Jena 
during  the  visitation  of  the  plague. 

2  On  this  and  on  the  visit  of  the  Pope's  nuncio,  Vergerio,  cf .  chapters  xvn  and 


in  the  sun,  that  you  won't  outshine  yourself  without  shining  on  me. 
Your  godson,  master  Martin,1  greets  you ;  he  is  getting  big  but  not 
bad,  God  keep  him !  God  bless  you.  Don't  mind  my  ways,  for  you 
know  that  I  am  so  hard  and  cross,  gross,  gray,  and  green,  so  overladen, 
overcrowded  and  overstocked  with  business  that  once  in  a  while,  for 
the  sake  of  my  poor  carcass,  I  have  to  break  out  to  a  friend.  A  man  is 
no  more  than  a  man  save  that  God  can  make  what  he  will  of  one  if 
we  only  let  him.  Greet  all  good  gentlemen  and  friends. 

Dr.  Martin  Luther. 

Much  the  same  tone  prevails  in  a  letter  written  two  years 
later  to  Justus  Jonas.  This  true  friend  had  been  a  student  at 
Erfurt  when  Luther  passed  through  on  his  way  to  Worms.  He 
left  all  to  follow  his  hero,  first  to  the  memorable  diet  and  then 
back  to  Wittenberg,  where  his  abilities  soon  won  him  a  position 
in  the  university  and  that  of  canon  and  provost  of  the  Castle 
Church.  Till  1541,  when  he  left  to  preach  the  gospel  at  Halle, 
he  was  often  a  guest  at  Luther's  table.  His  wife  Catharine  was 
a  great  friend  of  Frau  Luther.2  Jonas  was  a  fine  stylist  and  a 
polished  preacher.  While  he  was  absent  on  a  visit  Luther  wrote 
him  this  letter,  in  which  sadness  is  mingled  with  that  love  of 
nature  so  often  expressed  elsewhere :  — 


(Wittenberg,)  April  8,  1538. 

Grace  and  peace  in  Christ.  Dear  Jonas,  I  do  not  wish  to  contend 
with  you  in  writing  letters,  and  not  without  reason,  first,  because  you 
surpass  me  in  genius  and  eloquence  even  by  your  hereditary  gifts,  and 
then  because  you  have  much  more  material  to  write  about,  living,  as 
you  do,  among  heroes  and  great  deeds.  I  beg  leave  to  think  that  the 
armies  of  Trojans  and  Greeks  would  have  grown  cold  before  Troy 
had  not  Homer  blown  so  small  a  matter  big  with  his  immense  gift  of 

We  confess  Christ  in  quietness  and  confidence,  but  sometimes  with- 
out much  strength.  We  are  oppressed  by  business,  especially  Melanch- 
thon  and  I,  on  account  of  your  absence,  and  I  am  sick  of  it,  for  I  am 
an  old  veteran  who  has  served  his  time  and  would  prefer  to  spend  my 

1  Luther's  four-year-old  son.  Cf.  chapter  xxxn. 

2  Cf.  letter  to  her,  March  26,  1542,  and  to  Jonas,  December  25,  1542,  and  May 
4,  1543. 


days  in  the  garden  enjoying  the  senile  pleasures  of  watching  God's 
wonders  in  the  blooming  of  the  trees,  flowers,  and  grass,  and  in  the 
mating  of  the  birds.  I  should  have  merited  this  pleasure  and  leisure 
had  I  not  deserved  to  be  deprived  of  it  on  account  of  my  past  sins.  .  .  . 


Martin  Luther. 



After  the  return  from  Feste  Coburg,  Luther  continued  to 
occupy  the  Wittenberg  pulpit.  His  pastoral  duties  were  espe- 
cially heavy  during  the  frequent  absence  of  Bugenhagen,  the 
parish  priest.  On  December  1,  1530,  he  wrote  Link :  — 

I  have  not  time  to  write  to  all,  as  I  am  not  only  Luther  but  Bugen- 
hagen and  notary-public  and  Moses  and  Jethro  and  what  not  ?  all  in 
all,  Jack  of  all  trades  and  master  of  none. 

As  time  went  on  his  style  became  freer.  He  preached  ex  tem- 
pore^ no  longer  writing  out  his  sermons,  many  of  which  were 
taken  down  by  Borer.  He  often  alluded  in  his  sermons  to  ques- 
tions of  the  day.  One  thing  he  especially  cultivated  was  sim- 
plicity, for,  as  he  said :  — 

A  preacher  should  bare  his  breast  and  give  the  simple  folk  milk, 
for  every  day  a  new  need  of  first  principles  arises.  He  should  be  dili- 
gent with  the  catechism  and  serve  out  only  milk  leaving  the  strong 
wine  of  high  thoughts  for  private  discussion  with  the  wise.  In  my  ser- 
mons I  do  not  think  of  Bugenhagen,  Jonas,  and  Melanchthon,  for  they 
know  as  much  as  I  do,  so  I  preach  not  to  them  but  to  my  little  Hans 
and  Lena  and  Elsa.1  It  would  be  a  foolish  gardener  who  would  attend 
to  one  flower  to  the  neglect  of  the  great  majority. 

Luther's  professorial  work  was  also  continued  till  his  death. 
An  estimate  of  his  contributions  to  Biblical  exegesis  has  been 
given  in  previous  chapters.  Some  conception  of  his  methods  in 
the  classroom  may  be  formed  from  this  saying :  — 

Some  masters  rate  the  proud  youngsters  to  make  them  feel  what 
they  are,  but  I  always  praise  the  arguments  of  the  boys,  no  matter 
how  crude  they  are,  for  Melanchthon's  strict  manner  of  overturning 
the  poor  fellows  so  quickly  displeases  me.  Every  one  must  rise  by 
degrees,  for  no  one  can  attain  to  excellence  suddenly. 

1  Luther's  niece,  Elsa  Kaufman n. 


Luther  also  exercised  a  certain  supervision  over  the  morals 
of  his  pupils,  warning  them  against  impurity,  and  endeavoring 
to  see  justice  done  when  they  got  into  scrapes.  An  amusing 
letter,  written  during  a  summer  when  a  light  epidemic  of  the 
plague  swept  over  Wittenberg,  may  be  translated  as  showing 
how  like  were  the  students  of  the  sixteenth  to  those  of  the 
twentieth  century  :  — 


Wittenberg,  July  9,  1535. 
Grace  and  peace  in  Christ  and  my  poor  paternoster.  Most  serene, 
highborn  Prince,  most  gracious  Lord !  Your  Grace's  chancellor,  Dr. 
Briick,  has  communicated  to  me  the  kind  invitation  to  visit  you  while 
the  plague  is  here.  I  humbly  thank  your  Grace  for  your  care,  and 
will  show  myself  ready  to  comply  if  there  is  real  need.  But  your 
bailiff,  John  von  Metsch,  is  a  reliable  weather-cock ;  he  has  the  nose 
of  a  vulture  for  the  plague,  and  would  smell  it  five  yards  under 
ground.  As  long  as  he  stays  I  cannot  believe  that  there  is  any  plague 
here.  A  house  or  two  may  be  infected,  but  the  air  is  not  tainted. 
There  has  been  neither  death  nor  new  case  since  Tuesday,  but  as  the 
dog-days  are  near  the  boys  are  frightened,  so  I  have  given  them  a 
vacation  to  quiet  them  until  we  see  what  is  going  to  happen.  I  observe 
that  the  said  youths  rather  like  the  outcry  about  the  plague ;  some  of 
them  get  ulcers  from  their  school-satchels,  others  colic  from  the  books, 
others  scurvy  from  the  pens,  and  others  gout  from  the  paper.  The 
ink  of  the  rest  has  dried  up,  or  else  they  have  devoured  long  letters 
from  their  mothers  and  so  got  homesickness  and  nostalgia ;  indeed 
there  are  more  ailments  of  this  kind  than  I  can  well  recount.  If 
parents  and  guardians  don't  speedily  cure  these  maladies  it  is  to  be 
feared  that  an  epidemic  of  them  will  wipe  out  all  our  future  preach- 
ers and  teachers,  so  that  nothing  will  be  left  but  swine  and  dogs, 
which  perchance  would  please  the  papists.  May  Christ  our  Lord  give 
your  Highness  his  grace  and  mercy  (and  to  all  Christian  rulers)  to 
guard  against  such  a  plague  as  this,  to  the  praise  and  honor  of  God 
and  to  the  vexation  of  Satan,  that  enemy  of  all  decency  and  learning. 
Amen.  God  bless  you.  Amen. 

Your  Grace's  obedient 

Martin  Luther. 

The  most  abiding  portion  of  the  Reformer's  work  is  of  course 
contained  in  his  writings.  These  are  voluminous ;  an  incomplete 

AT  WORK  333 

edition  fills  more  than  one  hundred  volumes.  During  his  life- 
time he  was  often  urged  to  publish  a  complete  edition  of  them, 
but  he  disliked  the  idea,  writing  Capito  that  he  felt  a  Saturn- 
ian  hunger  to  devour  his  offspring  rather  than  a  wish  to  give 
them  a  new  lease  of  life.  To  the  citizens  of  Wittenberg  and 
Augsburg  who  made  the  same  request  he  replied  that  he  would 
prefer  that  all  his  writings  perish,  so  that  only  the  Bible  might 
be  read.  He  was  finally  induced,  however,  to  supervise  such  an 
edition  undertaken  by  Rorer  and  Cruciger,  of  which,  however, 
only  two  volumes  appeared  before  his  death. 

A  number  of  Luther's  letters  were  also  published  during  his 
lifetime,  but  not  in  large  collections,  as  were  those  of  Erasmus. 
Those  that  saw  the  light  were  rather  single  epistles  like  pam- 
phlets or  newspaper  articles  of  the  present  day.  Nevertheless, 
Luther's  secretaries  preserved  a  large  number  of  letters,  and 
in  1540  some  one  told  him  they  would  be  published.  He  re- 
plied :  — 

Don't  believe  it !  No  one  will  do  it,  though,  to  be  sure,  nothing  has 
given  me  more  thought  and  trouble.  I  must  often  consider  my  answer 
so  as  to  say  neither  too  much  nor  too  little.  .  .  .  My  letters  are  not 
Ciceronian  and  oratorical  like  those  of  Grickel,  but  at  least  I  have 
substance  if  not  elegant  Latin. 

Luther  was,  perhaps,  too  conscious  of  his  own  imperfect 
Latinity.  In  1516,  writing  to  Mutian  he  apologizes  that  "  this 
barbarian  Martin,  accustomed  only  to  cry  out  among  geese," 
should  venture  to  address  so  learned  a  man,  and  he  rarely  fails 
to  make  similar  excuses  whenever  he  writes  to  a  noted  human- 
ist. At  these  times  he  took  especial  pains  with  his  diction,  and 
was  capable  of  a  certain  refinement.  He  always  wrote,  indeed, 
with  correctness,  and  though  he  lacks  the  labored  and  often 
pedantic  Ciceronian  style,  so  carefully  cultivated  by  the  schol- 
ars of  the  Renaissance,  he  more  than  makes  up  for  this  de- 
ficiency by  the  freshness  and  force  of  his  Latin,  which  he  treats 
as  if  it  were  a  living  language. 

In  German,  as  has  been  pointed  out,  Luther  was  one  of  the 
first  authors.  His  greatest  fault,  perhaps,  is  verbosity.  His 
works  contain  endless  repetition.  He  was  conscious  of  this 
defect  himself,  and  regretted  that  he  was  unable  "  to  be  as 


concise  and  perspicuous  as  Melanchthon  and  Amsdorf."  "  lam 
garrulous  and  rhetorical,' '  he  said  at  another  time,  and  once 
confessed,  "Formerly  I  almost  talked  the  world  to  death. 
Then  I  could  say  more  about  a  feather  than  now  about  a  farm, 
and  yet  I  do  not  like  verbosity." 

Another  quality,  nearly  allied  to  this,  very  obvious  in  all 
Luther's  writings,  and  felt  by  him  as  a  lack,  is  the  absence  of 
system.  The  Reformer  was  no  organizer ;  he  had  not  the  gift 
of  ordered  presentation.  This  quality,  which  he  admired  so  much 
in  Melanchthon  and  would  have  admired  still  more  in  Calvin, 
has  sometimes  been  said  to  be  usually  lacking  in  Germans. 
These  deep  thinkers,  patient  searchers  after  truth,  and  great 
poets  have  not  the  ability,  so  characteristic  of  the  French,  of 
presenting  their  thought  in  a  clear,  systematic  form.  Even  the 
greatest  German  masterpiece,  Faust,  with  all  its  sublime  poetry 
and  profound  thought  and  feeling,  has,  according  to  classic 
standards,  little  unity  and  at  times  imperfect  coherence.  To  say 
that  Luther  and  his  countrymen  are  somewhat  less  gifted  in 
this  regard  is  not  saying  anything  against  them.  The  deepest 
thinking  is  not  always  the  most  systematized.  It  has  often  been 
charged  against  Shakespeare  that  he  had  no  philosophy,  and 
Plato  has  been  accused  of  being  inconsistent. 

Among  the  four  hundred  and  twenty  works  from  Luther's 
pen,  none,  therefore,  is  to  be  found  which  gives  in  succinct  form 
the  essentials  of  his  philosophy.  All  his  commentaries  are  con- 
cerned with  the  text  alone ;  all  his  tracts  are  written  to  meet 
the  exigencies  of  some  particular  situation.  Moreover  he  habit- 
ually wrote  at  great  speed,  often  finishing  a  work  while  the 
first  part  was  in  press.  Of  his  rapidity  in  composition  he  once 
observed :  — 

I  bring  forth  as  soon  as  I  conceive.  First,  I  consider  all  my  argu- 
ments and  words  diligently  from  every  point  of  view,  so  that  I  have  a 
perfect  idea  of  my  book  before  I  begin  to  write.  .  .  .  But  my  enemies 
the  papists  and  others  burst  forth  and  bawl  whatever  comes  into  their 
heads  first. 

Whatever  his  faults,  however,  Luther  remains  one  of  the 
greatest  of  writers.  His  fury  and  his  mirth  are  alike  Titanic; 

AT  WORK  335 

his  polemics  are  informed  with  matchless  vigor,  and  his  musings 
over  the  cradle  of  his  baby  are  in  the  grand  style.  It  is  well 
known  that  Goethe  and  Lessing  and  many  another  great  German 
author  drank  deep  of  the  great  river  of  his  inspiration.  To 
foreign  writers,  too,  he  has  been  a  mighty  influence.  Thomas 
Carlyle,  in  his  suggestive,  impressionistic  way,  thus  hits  off  his 
qualities : *  — 

But  in  no  books  have  I  found  a  more  robust,  I  will  say  noble, 
faculty  of  a  man  than  in  these  of  Luther.  A  rugged  honest  homeliness, 
simplicity ;  a  rugged  sterling  sense  and  strength.  He  flashes  out  illu- 
mination from  him  ;  his  smiting  idiomatic  phrases  seem  to  cleave  into 
the  very  secret  of  the  matter.  Good  humor,  too,  nay  tender  affection, 
nobleness,  and  depth :  this  man  could  have  been  a  poet  too ! 

And  Michelet,  the  greater  historian  of  France,  thus  vividly 
brings  him  before  our  eyes  : 2  — 

See  how  Luther  appears,  sublime  and  ridiculous  (bouffon)  musician 
of  this  divine  Yule-tide  ;  mirthful,  angry,  and  terrible ;  an  Aristo- 
phanic  David,  something  between  Moses  and  Rabelais.  Nay,  more 
than  all  that,  the  People,  or,  as  he  magnificently  named  the  people : 
"My  Lord  Everybody  "  (Herr  Omnes).    This' lord  is  in  Luther. 

No  English  writer  of  his  time  can  be  compared  with  him. 
Only  Burke  has  equalled  him  in  passion,  sometimes  degener- 
ating into  scurrility.  His  prose  is  perhaps  nearer  that  of  Milton 
than  of  any  other  of  our  authors.  Milton,  to  be  sure,  lacks 
Luther's  humor ;  but  they  possess  in  common  the  long  complex 
sentences  ;  the  vocabulary  of  each  has  the  same  taste  of  origin- 
ality and  radicality ;  in  both  there  is  the  same  scholarly  back- 
ground ;  the  same  vehemence,  occasionally  the  same  foul- 
mouthed  invective  in  the  interest  of  piety.  In  another  point, 
not  without  its  influence  on  style,  the  pair  resembled  each  other, 
namely,  in  their  fondness  for  music  and  relative  indifference  to 
other  arts.3 

1  Hero  and  Hero-  Worship.  The  Hero  as  Priest. 

2  Histoire  de  France,  x,  108. 

8  Cf.  Chapter  xxxi,  p.  348.  Milton  had  some  familiarity  with  Luther's  Latin 
works,  though  he  confesses  that  he  had  not  "  examined  through  them  "  all.  Cf. 
supra,  p.  87. 



The  deepest  part  of  Luther's  life  was  his  religion.  Any 
picture  which  failed  to  give  a  strong  idea  of  this  would  be  like 
Hamlet  with  the  prince, left  out.  To  him  the  relation  of  the  in- 
dividual to  God  was  not  only  the  most  serious  fact  in  life,  but 
also  the  most  practical,  the  atmosphere  in  which  he  lived  and 
moved  and  had  his  being.  His  formal  writings  are  mainly  con- 
cerned with  religion,  his  letters  are  saturated  with  it,  and  his 
table-talk  reveals  the  constancy  with  which  his  thoughts  were 
occupied  with  this  subject.  To  his  contemporaries  these  sayings 
were  mainly  interesting  as  authoritative  expositions  of  dogma, 
to  posterity  they  are  hardly  less  valuable  as  keys  to  the  heart  of 
a  great  prophet.  The  dogmatic  system  of  the  Evangelic  Church 
may  be  best  studied  in  the  treatises  of  its  leader  and  in  those 
of  his  disciple  Melanchthon,  but  the  ethical  part,  taking  the 
word  in  its  broadest  sense  as  that  which  concerns  the  man's 
rjOos,  comes  out  most  strongly  in  his  incidental  remarks.  Luther 
is  greater  than  his  work.  His  dogmatic  system  has  lost  part  of 
its  hold  upon  mankind,  and  seems  likely  to  lose  still  more,  but 
his  influence  on  the  ideals  and  culture  of  many  an  age  to  come 
will  remain. 

To  Luther  himself,  however,  religion  and  doctrine  were 
nearly  allied.  The  centre  of  his  theology  was  the  idea  of  just- 
ification by  faith  in  Christ,  and  the  most  important  part  of 
the  Saviour's  work  was  the  atonement ;  indeed  he  warns  his 
followers  against  regarding  Jesus  merely  as  an  example  for 

His  faith  and  childlike  trust  are  strongly  painted  in  the  fol- 
lowing fragments  of  his  conversations  :  — 

We  must  rejoice  in  the  Lord,  but  such  joy  will  often  lead  us  astray, 
too.    David  had  to  endure  many  a  temptation,  to  murder,  adultery, 
1  In  the  letter  to  the  Christians  of  Strassburg,  December  14,  1524,  p.  155. 


and  rapine  until  he  turned  to  the  fear  of  God  and  remained  therein. 
Therefore  he  says  in  the  Second  Psalm,  "  Serve  the  Lord  with  fear  and 
rejoice  with  trembling."  They  go  together  —  joy  and  fear.  My  little 
son  Hans  can  do  it  before  me,  but  I  cannot  do  it  before  God.  If  I  sit 
and  write  and  Hans  sings  a  song  over  there  and  plays  too  noisily,  I 
speak  to  him  about  it  and  he  sings  more  quietly  with  care  and  rever- 
ence. So  God  will  have  us  always  joyful,  but  with  fear  and  honor  to 

The  principal  study  of  theology  is  to  learn  of  Christ  and  know 
him  well.  As  we  trust  a  good  friend,  knowing  that  he  will  show  us 
all  good  will,  so  we  should  trust  the  Lord  to  be  gracious  and  merciful 
to  us.  Therefore  St.  Peter  says :  "  Grow  in  the  knowledge  of  Christ," 
that  is,  believe  that  he  is  the  best,  most  merciful  and  kindest  Lord,  on 
whom  alone  we  should  depend  and  to  whom  we  should  cleave.  Christ 
also  teaches  that  we  know  him  only  in  the  Holy  Scripture,  for  he  says : 
u  Search  the  Scriptures,  for  they  are  they  which  testify  of  me."  But 
the  devil  hinders  and  greatly  darkens  this  high  knowledge  in  us  and 
brings  it  to  pass  that  we  trust  a  good,  human  friend  more  than  the 
Lord  Christ. 

I  have  studied  diligently,  but  as  yet  I  do  not  understand  one  word 
of  the  Bible.  I  have  not  yet  passed  the  primary  class,  but  I  am  always 
turning  over  in  my  mind  what  I  know,  and  asking  for  comprehension 
of  the  decalogue  and  the  creed.  It  irks  me  not  a  little  that  I,  a  doc- 
tor, with  all  my  learning  should  willy  nilly  stay  in  the  class  with  my 
little  Hans  and  Magdalene  and  go  to  s«hool  with  them.  Who  has  ever 
understood  all  the  meaning  of  the  words  :  "  Our  Father  which  art  in 
heaven  "  ?  By  faith  in  these  words  we  know  that  the  God  who  made 
heaven  and  earth  is  our  father,  and  that  we  are  his  children  and  none 
can  hurt  us.  The  Angel  Gabriel  is  my  servant,  Raphael  is  my  groom, 
and  all  other  angels  are  ministering  spirits  to  my  various  needs.  Then, 
perhaps,  my  good  Father  turns  to  and  has  me  cast  into  prison  or 
beheaded  or  drowned,  to  try  whether  I  have  really  learned  these  words, 
or  even  the  one  "  Father."  For  the  faith  in  our  hearts  wavers  and  our 
weakness  suggests  a  doubt,  "  How  do  I  know  whether  this  is  true  ?  " 
The  hardest  word  in  all  Scripture  to  understand  is  "  thy  "  in  the  First 

No  one  is  able  to  calculate  the  wealth  God  spends  feeding  the  birds, 
even  the  useless  ones.  I  fancy  it  costs  God  more  than  the  revenue  of 
the  King  of  France  for  one  year  to  feed  two  sparrows.  And  what 
about  the  other  birds,  larger  and  more  rapacious  ? 

One  night  two  little  birds  flew  into  the  room,  but  were  frightened 


by  us  and  would  not  let  us  approach.  The  doctor  said  to  me  :  "  Schlag- 
inhauf en,  these  birds  lack  faith.  They  do  not  know  how  glad  I  am  to 
have  them  here  nor  that  I  would  let  no  harm  be  done  them.  Thus  do 
we  act  toward  God,  who  loves  us  and  has  given  his  Son  for  us." 

Dr.  Luther  was  playing  with  his  dog  and  said :  "  The  dog  is  the 
most  faithful  of  animals  and  would  be  much  esteemed  were  it  not  so 
common.  Our  Lord  God  has  made  his  greatest  gifts  the  commonest. 
Eyes  are  the  greatest  of  all  gifts  to  living  creatures.  Little  birds  have 
eyes  like  stars,  so  that  they  can  see  a  fly  across  the  room.  But  we 
fools  don't  think  of  these  gifts  now,  though  we  shall  in  the  next 

From  the  first  years  in  the  monastery  Luther's  later  life  in- 
herited a  tinge  of  melancholy.  Though  he  rarely  again  felt  the 
terrible  despair  of  those  days,  he  often  had  periods  of  depres- 
sion. He  was  therefore  very  kind  in  understanding  and  helping 
younger  friends  who  felt  the  same  trials.  At  times  he  said  he 
found  relief  from  such  thoughts  in  a  good  drink,  or  in  other 
pleasures  of  the  senses.  To  Schlaginhaufen  he  gave  the  fol- 
lowing more  spiritual  advice :  — 

The  greatest  temptation  is  this,  when  Satan  says,  "  God  hates  sin- 
ners and  therefore  hates  you."  Some  feel  this  temptation  one  way, 
some  another.  The  devil  always  makes  me  think  of  my  misdeeds, 
as  for  example  that  in  my  youth  I  celebrated  the  sacrifice  of  the  mass. 
Thus  he  attacks  some  on  their  past  life.  But  in  his  syllogism  the 
major  premise  is  to  be  denied,  for  it  is  false  that  God  hates  sinners. 
If  the  devil  brings  up  the  example  of  Sodom  and  such  places,  we  must 
reply  by  citing  the  fact  that  Christ  was  sent  in  the  flesh.  If  God 
hated  sinners  he  would  certainly  not  have  sent  his  Son.  He  hates 
only  those  who  do  not  wish  to  be  justified,  that  is,  those  who  think 
they  are  not  sinners.  Temptations  of  this  sort  are  most  valuable  to 
us  ;  they  are  not,  I  believe,  our  ruin  but  our  education,  and  every 
Christian  should  think  that  he  cannot  know  Christ  but  by  tempta- 
tion,    i 

About  ten  years  ago  I  first  felt  this  despair  and  fear  of  divine 
wrath.1   Afterwards  I  obtained  rest  when  I  married  and  had  good 

1  Luther  speaks  December  14,  1531.  For  the  moment  he  is  speaking  of  the 
doubts  he  entertained  when  he  first  broke  with  the  Church  of  Rome,  a  subject  to 
which  he  returns  later.  He  next  digresses  to  the  old  monastery  days  when  he 
felt  doubts  about  his  own  salvation. 


days,  but  later  it  returned.  When  I  complained  to  Staupitz  he  said  he 
had  never  felt  such  trials,  "  but  as  far  as  I  can  see,"  said  he,  "  they  are 
more  necessary  to  us  than  food  and  drink."  Who  feel  such  tempta- 
tions should  accustom  themselves  to  bearing  them,  for  so  doing  is  real 
Christianity.  If  Satan  had  not  tried  me  thus  I  could  not  hate  him  so 
much,  nor  do  him  so  much  harm,  so  that  my  trials  seem  to  me  gifts 
of  God,  for  I  should  have  fallen  into  the  abyss  of  hell  through  pride 
had  it  not  been  for  them.  God  has  taught  me  that  they  are  his  free 
gifts,  for  when  it  comes  to  a  battle,  I  cannot  single-handed  conquer 
one  venial  sin. 

The  papists  and  Anabaptists  teach  that  if  you  would  know  Christ 
you  must  be  alone  and  not  associate  with  men,  like  a  hermit.  This  is 
devilish  advice.  .  .  .  Good-bye  to  those  who  say :  — 

"  Keep  to  yourself  apart. 

"  Then  you  are  pure  in  heart." 

The  world  does  not  know  the  hidden  treasures  of  God.  It  cannot 
be  persuaded  that  the  maid  working  obediently  and  the  servant  faith- 
fully performing  his  duty,  or  the  woman  rearing  her  children  are  as 
good  as  the  praying  monk  who  strikes  his  breast  and  wrestles  with 
his  spirit. 

One  part  of  Luther's  religion,  borrowed  from  the  popular 
superstition  of  the  age,  was  his  belief  in  a  personal  devil.  The 
anecdote  of  his  throwing  his  inkstand  at  the  fiend,  is,  to  be 
sure,  apocryphal,  but  i